Two Spanish command forms are the imperative (ven) and the optative (que vengas), though both are roughly semantically equivalent to the English ‘come.’ Although Spanish native speakers (NSs) may judge the two forms to be semantically equal, existing studies on these variable forms are not empirically substantiated, leading to questions regarding their validity. Also un-researched is the acquisition of the variation between these two forms by learners of Spanish, particularly in an immersion setting.
The current study follows the immersion of 15 learners of Spanish, who completed a written contextualized task before and after four-weeks abroad in Spain. Their results were compared to 50 NSs of the target community and 10 at-home learners of Spanish. The overall rates of selection and the predictiveness of direct object, formality, and previous command type were analyzed.
Abroad learners’ development by Time 2 was evidenced by their approach of the NS target based on overall rates of selection and the directionality of many linguistic predictors. At-home learners, in contrast, moved away from the target. The current study contributes to the sociolinguistic and acquisitional literature as the first that quantitatively examines the overall rates of selection and the linguistic factors conditioning the selection of imperatives and optatives by NSs and learners. Additionally, this is the first study that has considered the acquisition of this linguistic structure in the study abroad environment.