This study investigates the developmental rate of estar production by Chinese-speaking learners in planned written production. The forms of Spanish copula verbs have no equivalent forms in Chinese in pre-adjectival position (i.e. no copula verb exists between a referent and an adjective in Chinese). This contrast between languages provides a number of opportunities for novel insights into copula acquisition, including universality and developmental dynamics. Thus, this research examines, particularly, factors that are associated with estar use in a pre-adjectival position. Unlike early copula acquisition studies which examined accuracy rates, this research examines semantic, pragmatic, and lexical characteristics of copula use (Geeslin, 2000, 2003) within the context of free written essays. Beginner and intermediate level Chinese-speaking learners of Spanish seem to acquire copula choice through a lexical and semantic approach. As learner vocabulary expands, pragmatic and semantic features (prior experience and animate-change) become most salient in relation to higher rates of use of estar in a free writing task. While the research methods of this study differ from those of Geeslin (2000, 2003), some findings are comparable. Results indicate that the methods used here can be used to glean further novel insights from the SLA process of Chinese-speaking learners.
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