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WHO WAS WALKING ON THE BEACH?: Anaphora Resolution in Spanish Heritage Speakers and Adult Second Language Learners

  • Gregory D. Keating (a1), Bill VanPatten (a2) and Jill Jegerski (a3)


The position of antecedent strategy (Carminati, 2002) claims that speakers of null-subject languages prefer to resolve intrasentential anaphora by linking pro to an antecedent in the specifier of the inflection phrase and the overt pronoun to an antecedent lower in the clause. The present study has two aims: (a) to determine whether adult early Spanish-English bilinguals (Spanish heritage speakers) and late English-Spanish bilinguals (adult second language [L2] learners of Spanish) utilize the same antecedent assignment strategies as monolingually raised Spanish speakers, and (b) to determine whether early exposure to and use of Spanish confers advantages to Spanish heritage speakers relative to L2 learners. Spanish speakers raised without English contact (n = 19), Spanish heritage speakers (n = 25), and L2 learners of Spanish (n = 19) completed an offline questionnaire that comprised complex sentences such as Juan vio a Carlos mientras pro/él caminaba en la playa “John saw Charles while he was walking on the beach.” Comprehension questions probed participants’ preferences regarding the antecedent of null and overt pronouns. The results indicate that the monolingually raised Spanish speakers showed an antecedent bias, but the heritage speakers and the L2 learners did not. Furthermore, the two groups of bilinguals differed from the controls in different ways: The heritage speakers displayed a stronger subject bias for the overt pronoun, whereas the L2 learners did not exhibit any clear antecedent biases.


Corresponding author

*Address correspondence to: Gregory D. Keating, Department of Linguistics and Asian/Middle Eastern Languages, San Diego State University, 5500 Campanile Dr., San Diego, CA 92182-7727; e-mail:


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WHO WAS WALKING ON THE BEACH?: Anaphora Resolution in Spanish Heritage Speakers and Adult Second Language Learners

  • Gregory D. Keating (a1), Bill VanPatten (a2) and Jill Jegerski (a3)


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