In Spanish, imprecise quantities are typically expressed through approximators (APs) (e.g., casi $60
‘almost’, como $30
‘like’, and 90 y pico
‘-ish’). APs make semantic boundaries fuzzy, but they provide instructions for utterance interpretation by establishing upper limits (e.g., casi
), lower limits (e.g., y pico
), or no specific limits (e.g., como
). While APs occur frequently in naturally occurring language, they are rarely included in second language (L2) classrooms or textbooks, limiting learners’ exposure to these forms. This study examined how intermediate L2, advanced L2, and native Spanish speakers (n
= 20 per group) discussed imprecise quantities during oral interviews in which they responded to money-related questions. The study investigated the effect of L2 proficiency and cumulative length of exposure abroad in the learners’ lexical knowledge of APs. GLMMs revealed that, overall, an increased L2 proficiency correlated to a more frequent and more natural use of APs. A significant interaction between L2 proficiency and length of stay abroad was also found, as even short periods abroad resulted in significant lexical gains for the intermediate learners. The results show that while proficiency mediates AP use, naturalistic exposure at an early stage accelerates lexical acquisition, promoting a more target-like expression of numeric imprecision.
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