The Present State of the Aspect Hypothesis: A Critical Perspective

Patrick D. Thane


Early research on the Aspect Hypothesis yielded a rigid developmental sequence for the acquisition of grammatical aspect, in which developing L2 learners applied morphemes to mark aspect in accordance with the inherent lexical aspect of verbal prototypes. While studies from a variety of L2 backgrounds have amassed evidence for this hypothesis, some recent research has questioned its generalizability (i.e. Comajoan, 2005; Izquierdo & Collins, 2008; Liskin-Gasparro, 2000; Lez-Ortega, McManus, 2013; Salaberry, 2011). The present analysis of literature reviews the key tenets of the Aspect Hypothesis in order to examine how subsequent studies have demonstrated that L1 influence, syntactic similarities between L1 and L2, the role of inherent lexical aspect, and the use of pedagogical materials in classroom-based instruction may have implications for its accuracy in predicting learners use of temporal morphology. Such implications may affect the degree of accuracy with which this model predicts the acquisition of aspectual morphology in L2 learners, principally at early and advanced stages of proficiency. Lastly, this critical analysis identifies potential directions for future research that would strengthen or modify the recent claims that question the predictive accuracy of the Aspect Hypothesis.


Aspect Hypothesis; tense-aspect acquisition; second language acquisition; inherent lexical aspect; grammatical aspect

Full Text:



Andersen, R. (1991). Developmental sequences: The emergence of aspect marking in second language acquisition. In Huebner, T. & Ferguson, C.A. (Eds.), Crosscurrents in Second Language Acquisition and Linguistic Theories (pp. 305-324). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Bardovi-Harlig, K. (1992). The relationship of form and meaning: A cross-sectional study of tense and aspect in the interlanguage of learners of English as a second language. Applied Psycholinguistics, 13, pp. 253-278.

Bardovi-Harlig, K. (1994). Anecdote or evidence? Evaluating support for hypotheses concerning the development of tense and aspect. In Tarone, E., Gass, S.M., & Cohen, A.D. (Eds.), Research Methodology in Second Language Acquisition (pp. 41-60). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Bardovi-Harlig, K. & Bergstrm, A. (1996). Acquisition of tense and aspect in second language and foreign language learning: Learner narratives in ESL and FFL. Canadian Modern Language Review, 52, pp. 308-330.

Bardovi-Harlig, K. (2000). Tense and aspect in second language acquisition: Form, meaning, and use. Oxford: Blackwell.

Cadierno, T. (2000). The acquisition of Spanish grammatical aspect by Danish advanced language learners. Spanish Applied Linguistics, 4, pp. 1-53.

Collins, L. (2002). The roles of L1 influence and lexical aspect in the acquisition of temporal morphology. Language Learning, 52(1), pp. 43-94.

Comajoan, L. (2005). The early L2 acquisition of past morphology: Perfective morphology as an aspectual marker or default tense marker? In Eddington, D. (Ed.), Selected Proceedings of the 6th Conference on the Acquisition of Spanish and Portuguese as First and Second Languages (pp. 31-43). Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings.

Comrie, B. (1976). Aspect. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Izquierdo, J. & Collins, L. (2008). The facilitative role of L1 influence in tense-aspect marking: A comparison of Hispanophone and Anglophone learners of French. The Modern Language Journal, 92(3), pp. 350-368.

Klein, W. & Perdue, C. (1997). The basic variety (or: Couldnt natural languages be much simpler?). Second Language Research, 14, pp. 301-347.

Liskin-Gasparro, J.E. (2000). The use of tense-aspect morphology in Spanish oral narratives: Exploring the perceptions of advanced learners. Hispania, 83(4), pp. 830-844.

McManus, K. (2013). Prototypical influence in second language acquisition: What now for the Aspect Hypothesis. International Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching, 51, pp. 299-322.

Murakami, A. & Alexopoulou, D. (2016). L1 influence on the acquisition order of English grammatical morphemes. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 38, pp. 365-401.

Paradis, J., Rice, M.L, Crago, M., & Marquis, J. (2008). The acquisition of tense in English: Distinguishing child second language development from first language and specific language impairment. Applied Psycholinguistics, 29, pp. 689-722.

Salaberry, R. (2002). Tense and aspect in the selection of Spanish past tense verbal morphology. In Salaberry, R. & Shirai, Y. (Eds.), The Acquisition of L2 Tense-Aspect Morphology (pp. 397-415). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Salaberry, R. (2003). Tense aspect in verbal morphology. Hispania, 86(3), pp. 559-573.

Salaberry, R. (2011). Assessing the effect of lexical aspect and grounding on the acquisition of L2 Spanish past tense morphology among L1 English speakers. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 14(2), pp. 184-202.

Shirai, Y. & Anderson, R.W. (1995). The acquisition of tense-aspect morphology: A prototype account. Language, 71(4), pp. 743-762.

VanPatten, B. (1996). Input Processing and Grammar Instruction: Theory and Research. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

Vendler, Z. (1967). Linguistics in Philosophy. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

 Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.


Eurasian Journal of Applied Linguistics

ISSN 2149­-1135
Copyright © Eurasian Journal of Applied Linguistics

Ejal Editorial | Create Your Badge

To make sure that you can receive messages from us, please add the '' domain to your e-mail 'safe list'. If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox', check your 'bulk mail' or 'junk mail' folders.