Spring Roundtable Series; Omar Velázquez-Mendoza 3/20/15
The Role of Grammatical Metaphor in the Development of Advanced Literacy in First and Second Languages
Omar Velázquez-Mendoza, Spanish, Italian & Portuguese
This session reports the findings of a recent study, which traced the development of advanced literacy by two undergraduate language learner populations: (1) Humanities students of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México for whom Spanish is a native language (L1); and (2) Linguistics students enrolled at the University of California (Davis) for whom Spanish is either a heritage (HL) or a second language (L2). Following Halliday, Colombi, and Ignatieva, I propose that the presence, in student texts, of grammatical metaphors—incongruent, multiple-layer ways to represent reality—points to an advanced command of Spanish. A higher frequency of grammatical metaphors in a text correlates with a more advanced command of the target language. But the frequency with which grammatical metaphors are attested in texts varies from genre to genre. A scrutiny of the Corpus del Lenguaje Académico en Español (CLAE) allows me to claim that, regardless of the authors’ L1, texts belonging to the ‘question and answer’ genre of the corpus are, lexically, less dense—and presumably also more colloquial and, therefore, less advanced—than those belonging to the essay genre. This study holds general implications for the intense and continued debate over whether advanced language students undergo parallel or dissimilar stages of acquisition as a result of their linguistic background as L1, L2 or HL learners of the language. My findings lend further support to the former view. A group discussion on the implications of this study to the teaching and learning of languages other than Spanish will follow this presentation.