Previous studies (e.g., van Osch & Sleeman 2016; Perez-Cortes 2016) have found that heritage speakers (HSs) of Spanish produce less lexically-selected subjunctive mood morphology than Spanish-dominant speakers. It remains unclear, however, whether the HSs’ tendency to produce less subjunctive mood than Spanish-dominant speakers is attributable to representational differences (e.g., Montrul 2002, 2008), input quality differences (e.g., Pires & Rothman 2009; Pascual y Cabo & Rothman 2012), or as yet unidentified factors. The present study addresses this question by testing the effect of lexical frequency on advanced proficiency HSs’ productive (Experiment 1) and receptive (Experiment 2) knowledge of lexically-selected subjunctive mood in Spanish. Results of Experiments 1 and 2 indicate that advanced proficiency HSs are both (a) highly accurate with subjunctive mood and yet also (b) significantly less accurate with lower frequency verbs. Given these findings, as well as the categorical subjunctive production of the Spanish-dominant bilingual control group, it is argued that HSs’ differences from dominant speakers may be (partially) attributable to gaps in lexical, rather than morphosyntactic knowledge.
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