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UBC Theses and Dissertations

What kind of language are L2 Spanish students learning? : a critical study on the relevance of relative clause explanations Escudero, Alejandra


This is a critical study of how Spanish language textbooks present relative constructs at the post-secondary level. Specifically, do textbooks give information about what Spanish speakers actually say or do they simply prescribe usage patterns? Subordination through relative constructs (i.e., que [that, who], quien [who], lo que [that which], and so on) is one of the ways through which L2 Spanish learners begin to produce complex discourse (e.g., to clarify, to integrate, and to avoid repetition). Thus, these constructs deserve special attention. For this study, we reviewed the presentation of eleven relative constructs in 30 textbooks at the three different levels of language proficiency (beginner, intermediate and advanced) and then we compared them with occurrences in the Corpus de Referencia del Español Actual CREA (2008) [Reference Corpus of Current Spanish] electronic corpus of the Spanish language. Results showed that the relative construct que [that, who] presents the highest frequency in the electronic corpus, corroborating the information explained in the textbooks. For all other constructs, our analyses revealed great discrepancy between frequencies of appearance in the electronic corpus and the textbooks. For example, many textbook authors give great importance to the relative construct quien [who], when its use in actual discourse is much lower than expected. The analysis shows that textbooks give preference to specific relative constructs in a decontextualized setting. Results suggest that L2 Spanish students may be learning to speak in a pragmatically marginal style. Therefore, textbooks may be hindering full integration into a Hispanic community. The data collected from the electronic corpus suggest that Spanish speakers are replacing the relative constructs with other constructs when communicating in Spanish. Some relative constructs are less frequent than the grammars lead us to believe.

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