The role of cognitive individual differences in patterns of morphosyntactic variation
In a series of completed and ongoing projects, I am examining the role of working memory in the development of subject expression, future temporal reference, gender marking, and verbal agreement in first and second language Spanish. Findings thus far indicate that working memory interacts with distance effects and discursive constraints such that native speakers with higher working memory demonstrate stronger patterns of disambiguation and lesser effects of distance on subject form use. Regarding the relationship between working memory and second language acquisition, findings indicate the higher working memory learners pattern more similarly to native speakers with both variable and categorical morphosyntactic structures and suggest that learners with higher working memory abilities may more accurately deduce morphosyntactic patterns in the second language. Additionally, I have collected a corpus of oral data from 60 learners of Spanish at two levels of proficiency and from 30 native speakers of Spanish that includes information on each participant's working memory, phonological short-term memory, IQ, vocabulary proficiency and grammatical proficiency.With this corpus, I plan to examine the relationship between these individual differences and how they combine to affect patterns of variation across a range of additional variables.
The effect of regional variation on the second language development of morphosyntactic structures during study abroad
In a collaborative project, a colleague and I are currently investigating whether study abroad learners in Chile and Spain demonstrate patterns of variation in perfective marking that develop differently given that they are in contact with regional varieties of Spanish in which perfective actions are marked distinctly. We collected data from 24 learners studying abroad in Spain, 17 learners studying abroad in Chile, and 20 learners each from 4 different course levels in the university setting in the United States. We also collected data from 10 native speakers from each location. With this data, we are analyzing whether learners who study abroad in regions with different patterns of perfective marking diverge in their use of perfective forms, or whether they follow the same path of acquisition as learners in the university environment. This project was presented at Hispanic Linguistics Symposium in October 2017 and is in the process of being written up.
Grammaticalization of morphosyntactic forms in Spanish and French
I am expanding a prior project I worked on comparing the grammaticalization of the present perfect in French and in Spanish. Results thus far indicate that the constraints that govern variation between the present perfect and preterit forms in 17th century French are nearly identical to those in modern Peninsular Spanish. This similarity indicates that the expansion of the present perfect form to perfective contexts that has already occurred in French is very likely the same process that is occurring in modern Peninsular Spanish. This research provides diachronic, cross-linguistic support for the resultative-perfect-perfective path of grammaticalization found across Romance languages. Currently, I am collecting more data and coding for several additional factors before submitting this project for publication. In a similar project, a colleague and I are expanding our previous research on diachronic future-in-the-past variation. In our previous research, we found that future-in-the-past forms (i.e. iba a ir, iría) were governed by similar constraints to those that have been found to affect future form variation (i.e. voy a ir, iré) in previous research. However, there were some differences in patterning between the two contexts, which may be attributable to differences between the method we employed and that of the previous studies of future form variation. As such, we expanded our project and collected future form data using the same method we employed to examine future-in-the-past variation in order to make a true comparison possible. We found that several of the differences observed between future-in-the-past and previous future research were, in fact, attributable to differences in methods between studies. These results indicate that similarities in the lexico-semantic origin of grammaticalizing forms do, in fact, continue to constrain their paths of grammaticalization, even as they develop independently in different functional domains.
Sociopragmatic variation in personal advertisements in Spanish and English
I have collected a corpus of personal ads in Mexican Spanish and British English from four sex and sexual orientation groups: women seeking women, women seeking men, men seeking men, and men seeking women. Using data from this corpus, I found that homosexual posters diverged from the traditional personal ad format, using specific innovative discursive strategies to construct an in-group identity in both English and Spanish. The resulting paper from this project is under review.
The relationship between phonological short-term memory and second language pronunciation
A colleague and I are examining the role of phonological short-term memory (PSTM) in the second language production of specific Spanish segments. Prior research has found mixed results between PSTM and global second language production as assessed by raters. Given these mixed results, we wondered if raters may focus on different sounds in their assessment of second language pronunciation and proposed that PSTM may be more clearly correlated to the second language production of specific segments. Consequently, we analyzed the F1 and F2 values and duration of Spanish vowels in the speech of 20 speakers of L2 Spanish at two proficiency levels who differed according to PSTM. Our findings indicate that high PSTM learners demonstrated a more expanded vowel space that more closely resembled the native speaker norm at the lower proficiency level, and that high PSTM graduate learners demonstrated an expanded vowel space that surpassed that of native speakers, thus making them less native-like than the low PSTM graduate learners. Results for duration on the other hand, did not indicate a clear advantage for PSTM. As such, it may be that higher PSTM only provides an advantage in the second language acquisition of specific phones, possibly at lower levels, which may explain differences found in previous research, and that learners may surpass the native speaker norm at the highest levels. A draft for this project has been written up and will be submitted shortly.
Díaz-Campos, M. & Zahler, S. L. (2018). Testing formal accounts of variation: A sociolinguistic analysis of word order in negative word + más constructions. Hispania, 101(4), 605-619.
Linford, B., Zahler, S. L., & Whatley, M. (2018). Acquisition, study abroad and individual differences: The case of subject pronoun variation in L2 Spanish. Study Abroad Research in Second Language Acquisition and International Education, 3(2), 243-274.
Daidone, D. & Zahler, S. L. (2016). The future is in the past: A diachronic analysis of variable future-in-the-past expression in Spanish. In A. Cuza, L. Czerwionka, & D. Olson (Eds.) Inquiries in Hispanic linguistics: From theory to empirical evidence (pp. 317-334). Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins. http://dx.doi.org/10.1075/ihll.12.17dai
Refereed Working Papers
Zahler, S. L. (2015). Pragmalinguistic variation in electronic personal ads from Mexico City and London. Indiana University Linguistics Club Working Papers, 15(1), 208-230.
Zahler, S. L. & Daidone, D. (2014). A variationist account of trill /r/ usage in the Spanish of Málaga. Indiana University Linguistics Club Working Papers, 14(2), 17-42.
Zahler, S. L. (In Revisions). Speech strategy sequencing in personal ads: Differences according to sex and sexual orientation in Mexico City and London.
Daidone, D. & Zahler, S. L. (Accepted with revisions). A variationist analysis of second language Spanish trill production: Sociophonetic variation or developmental errors?
Selected Conference Presentations
Zahler, S. L. (October, 2019). "Second language learners and working memory: Production of gender agreement in advanced Spanish". Paper to be presented at the 2019 Hispanic Linguistics Symposium (HLS 2019), University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, TX.
Zahler, S. L. (September, 2019). "Individual differences in L2 pronunciation: The relationship between phonological memory and L2 Spanish VOT length". Paper to be presented at the 2019 Second Language Research Forum (SLRF 2019), Michigan State University, Lansing, MI.
Zahler, S. L. (October, 2018). "The relationship between working memory and the acquisition of variable subject expression by second language learners of Spanish." Paper presented at the 2018 Second Language Research Forum (SLRF 2018), Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, Canada. Powerpoint. Zahler, S. L. (October, 2018). "The role of cognitive constraints in language variation: The relationship between working memory and subject expression variation in Spanish." Paper presented at New Ways of Analyzing Variation 47 (NWAV 47), New York University, New York, NY. Powerpoint.
Zahler, S. L. & Lord, G. (February, 2018). "The role of phonological short-term memory in Spanish second language phonology: Exploring vowel quality and duration among English-speaking learners." Paper presented at the 10th Current Approaches to Spanish and Portuguese Second Language Phonology (CASPSLaP 2018), Indiana University, Bloomington, IN. Powerpoint.
Zahler, S. L. & Whatley, M. (October, 2017). “Regional variation and the L2 acquisition of variable Spanish perfective marking.” Paper presented at the 2017 Hispanic Linguistics Symposium (HLS 2017), Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX. Powerpoint.
Daidone, D. & Zahler, S. L. (March, 2017). “Structural and frequency effects on the variable production of Spanish L2 taps and trills.” Paper presented at the Georgetown University Round Table of Languages and Linguistics (GURT 2017), Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. Powerpoint.
Zahler, S. L. & Daidone, D. (November, 2016). “A diachronic analysis of variable future-in-the-past and canonical future expression in Spanish.” Poster presented at New Ways of Analyzing Variation (NWAV 45), Simon Frasier University and University of Victoria, Vancouver, B.C. Poster.
Daidone, D. & Zahler, S. L. (November, 2014). “The future is in the past: A diachronic analysis of variable future-in-the-past expression in Spanish.” Paper presented at the 2014 Hispanic Linguistics Symposium (HLS 2014), Purdue University, Lafayette, IN. Powerpoint.
Zahler, S. L. & Díaz-Campos, M. (October, 2014). “Priming effects in the use of más + negative constructions: A quantitative analysis of oral data.” Paper presented at New Ways of Analyzing Variation (NWAV 43), University of Illinois Chicago, Chicago, IL. Powerpoint.
Zahler, S. L. & Elias, M. V. (September, 2014). “Spanish in context: Stop-tap clusters in a contact zone in Colorado.” Paper presented at the 43rd Meeting of the Linguistic Association of the Southwest (LASSO 43), California State University- San Marcos, San Diego, CA. Powerpoint.
Zahler, S. L. (April, 2014). “Speech strategy variation in Mexico City Spanish and London English in online personal advertisements.” Paper presented at Pragmatics and Language Learning 2014 (PLL 2014), Indiana University, Bloomington, IN. Powerpoint.
Whatley, M., Zahler, S. L., Geeslin, K., & Díaz-Campos, M. (April, 2014). “The impact of study abroad on the acquisition of the Spanish copula contrast.” Paper presented at the 7th Workshop on Spanish Sociolinguistics (WSS7), University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI. Powerpoint.
Day, M. M. & Zahler, S. L. (April, 2014). “Tener + past participle: The early stages.” Paper presented at the 2014 Kentucky Foreign Language Conference (KFLC 2014), University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY. Powerpoint.
Daidone, D. & Zahler, S. (March, 2014). “A variationist study of the L2 production of Spanish trills.” Paper presented at the 4th Current Approaches to Spanish and Portuguese Second Language Phonology (CASPSLaP 2014), Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. Powerpoint.
Linford, B., Zahler, S. L., & Whatley, M. (November, 2013). “The impact of study abroad on L2 Spanish null v. overt subject pronoun variation.” Paper presented at the 2013 Second Language Research Forum (SLRF 2013), Brigham Young University, Provo, UT. Powerpoint.
Zahler, S. & Daidone, D. (October, 2013). “A variationist account of trill /r/ usage in the Spanish of Málaga.” Paper presented at the 17th Hispanic Linguistics Symposium (HLS 2013), University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario. Powerpoint.
Díaz-Campos, M. & Zahler, S. L. (October, 2013). “Testing previous formal accounts of variation in word order in negative word + más constructions.” Paper presented at New Ways of Analyzing Variation (NWAV 42), University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon, Pittsburgh, PA. Powerpoint.
Zahler, S. L. (September, 2013). “A computer-mediated discourse analysis and contrastive pragmatics approach to the study of personal ads from Mexico City and London.” Paper presented at the 42nd Annual Meeting of the Linguistic Association of the Southwest (LASSO 42), College of New Jersey and Westchester University, New Brunswick, NJ. Powerpoint.
Zahler, S. L. (October, 2012). “A sociolinguistic study of subject doubling in Parisian Colloquial French.” Paper presented at New Ways of Analyzing Variation (NWAV 41), Indiana University, Bloomington, IN. Powerpoint.
Zahler, S. L. (October, 2012). “Tener + past participle: Towards a new present perfect form in Modern Peninsular Spanish?” Paper presented at New Ways of Analyzing Variation (NWAV 41), Indiana University, Bloomington, IN. Powerpoint.
Zahler, S. L. (March, 2012). “Rhotic neutralization versus contrast maintenance in the Spanish of the United States.” Paper presented at the 2012 Georgetown University Roundtable on Linguistics (GURT 2012), Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. Powerpoint.
Zahler, S. L. (October, 2011). “¿Desde cuándo? Temporal prepositions meaning ‘since’ in modern peninsular Spanish and the effect of ‘when’ on their variation.” Paper presented at the 40th Annual New Ways of Analyzing Variation (NWAV 40), Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. Powerpoint.