Working Paper on Second Language Acquisition Research:
Notes on Theory and Method
Diego State University
Linguistic Perspectives on Second Language Acquisition
1. Overview and Introduction
Approaches and the LAD (Chomsky)
1.1. A Theory
of L1 Acquisition
From Skinner to Piaget
Much work in the 1950s among American Linguists sought to capture
the nature of language and language acquisition either via Behaviorist
Methods (Skinner's Stimulus & Response), or via Cognitive
Maturationalism (Piaget). Chomsky's early work in the late '50s
initially focused on discrediting both schools-of-thought (as witnessed
in the famous debates: Skinner vs. Chomsky (Chomsky 1959), and Chomsky
vs. Piaget (Piattelli-Palmarini: ed. 1980). Although it appears
that Chomsky has been credited with the 'win' between the two sides
of the debates--clearly behaviorism in its purest form was destined
to failure--it is a mistake to suggest that Chomsky has entirely
closed the book on the two models: both models contain special and
intrinsic aspects which do well to explain some elements of language.
Having said this, Chomsky's claim that the brain contains a separate
module for language (viz., the language faculty) independent of
cognition certainly heralded an important break-though in how we
understand the nature of language/ and language acquisition.
1. Behaviorism (Skinner) The study of human behavior
in observable stimulus response situations. Related to behavior
models is the 'habit-formation' L2 theories such as the Audiolingual
method of the 1960s.
Cognitive-Maturation (Piaget) The study of observing
and correlating language development via a maturational timetable
specifically tied to cognitive skills: sensori-motor, preconceptual,
pre-operational, operational, etc. Distinctions between Lexical
vs. Functionalism (e.g., Bickerton's Proto-language) could roughly
fall into such a scheme.
Chomsky Linguistic theory can provide general
frameworks within which data from child language acquisition can
be analyzed. Theoretical considerations can unify otherwise disparate
and seemingly unrelated data from language-acquisition studies
to provide a more uniform account of children's linguistic knowledge.
Conversely, theories of language acquisition constrain proposals
about adult grammars by requiring that adult grammars be learnable
within a relatively short period of time. Theories of adult language
strive not only to be consistent with what is known about children's
acquisition of language, but also theories help to establish an
acquisition process which is not dependent on impossible learning--the
Thus, Second Language Acquisition Research should
be guided by the same considerations as in L1 acquisition research--composing
a unified account. An
important difference however between L1 and L2 acquisition from
a linguistic theory point of view is that in L2 acquisition, learners
are confronted with the dynamics of having two (or more) linguistic
systems at work (in one brain/mind). How is the conflicting knowledge
resolved (multi-competence)? How is L2 knowledge 'learned/acquired'
and then 'stored'? There
are presently two major perspectives from which to view the relationship
between theories of language and theories of second language acquisition:
one involves claims regarding the impact of a theory of language
on the development of a theory of second language learning, and
the other involves claims regarding the use of second language
data to test or develop a theory of language.
1. An adequate model
of L2 is quite impossible without a coherent theory of language--as
Chomsky (1981) has argued for L1 acquisition research.
We illustrate this position with a discussion of Universal
2. Linguistic theory, because it is a theory
of natural language, must be tested against second language data
to be validated.
Thus, any theory
of language would be false if it failed to account for second
The formal Generative Theory of Grammar
(Chomsky) necessary component of a theory of second language acquisition.
In the absence of a formal theory, we get not only informal description,
but also a proliferation of ad hoc terminology that are
unconstrained by any principle.
By formulating precise
formal rules for the generating of sentence, it is possible
(in principle) to describe what it is that is acquired
by a learner of a specific language, and what it is that must
be cognized by humans by virtue of innate knowledge (Plato's
problem). The formal rules behind The Principles & Parameters
Theory (=PPT) (Chomsky) function in such a manner. Given
this type of information, we are in a position to make fairly
precise predictions about SLA where the second language (L2)
in some respect differs from the native language (L1).
1.1.1 Chomsky's Universal Grammar (UG)
Universal Grammar UG is taken to be the set of
properties, conditions or whatever that constitute the initial
state of the language learner, hence the basis on which knowledge
of language develops. All languages constrained by UG are, by
definition, 'possible' languages. Only UG constrains L1 acquisition.
Acquisition Device (LAD): It is claimed that there is a
language learning system (known as the language acquisition
device) that constrains the possible grammars.
By Autonomy, we mean that grammatical competence--one's
knowledge ('cognition') of the syntax, phonology and semantics
of a language--is a separate mental system (contra the Reductionist
position of Skinner, and to a lesser degree Piaget). Thus,
grammatical knowledge is not simply a special case of more
By Modularity, we mean that grammar, while autonomous,
is not isolated from other mental systems, nor is it monolithic
and undifferentiated (See Pinker 1984). Rather, we see language
in its everyday usage as the result of the interaction of
grammar with other mental systems.
Child Language Acquisition: PPT & Lexical vs. Functional Categories
Lexical Categories (vs. Holistic Form and Function approaches)
initial state of the language faculty can be regarded as
UG with all the principles & parameters
present but unattached to any language (=S0).
The final state is when UG has been transformed into one
of its possible steady states (=St ). Hence,
a grammar is a state of UG, not a product of UG (maturation).
Some aspects of our linguistic knowledge are 'innate'--or
genetically determined. As speakers, we know more about
a language than is possible given its input. We come to
a language with presupposed assumptions about how a language
is structured. This pre-conceived knowledge is genetically
endowed to us in the form of Universal Grammar.
At the lexical
stage (governed by UG), form and function does seem to behave
on a 'one-to one level'--i.e., form=meaning. These rough
principles are absolute and without parameterization--that
is, all languages share in their properties. The following
lexical categories are:
||Token Sentence Type
|=> Verb (VP)
=> Noun (NP)
=> PrepP (PP)
=> Adjective (AP)
|Daddy kick-ø ball.
Omissions: Case, INFL, AGR, Possessive and Word Order.)
Critical Period Closely
associated with these principles is the notion of a Critical
Period (Lenneberg). The idea being that there exists a cut-off
threshold by which it becomes impossible to 'acquire' the
parameterized form of a language. In such an event, all
that is made available are the principles of UG. The best
known example of this critical period is the case of a Genie
(Curtiss: 1977) whose virtual isolation from any linguistic
input resulted in her being permanently linguistically impaired.
All that she was able to employ in her speech were the basic
principles of UG--any attempt of establishing a parameterized
(L1) language was fruitless. If we maintain this Critical
Period Hypothesis, then maturational constraints on
UG would suggest that re-parameterization is unavailable
for the adult--UG may continue to be active though only
Indirectly via an L1 overlap.
Parameters & Functional Categories
one sees the clear significance of form and function at
the lexical stage of L1 acquisition, one would be hard pressed
to explain form and function in more abstract /formal levels
of language: namely, what, for instance, is the (discourse)
function of grammatical gender, nominative case, or even
third person singular 'S' ?
Parameterization is defined in terms of a
finite set of alternative values with which a given functional
category can be associated. Cross-linguistic variation is
therefore due to differences among the parametric values
of functional categories.
(NB. We can't escape from 'grammar'--albeit
'mere' grammar is not all there is to language--no matter
how hard we try to subsume it either under more holistic
ESL approaches, or under some other category like 'communication/discourse',
grammar must eventually be tackled. Pure holistic teaching
approaches rest on a failure/refusal to separate form from
function, grammar from communication. The problem in SLA/ESL
is that too many have tended to take the holistic position
as a truism.)
||Token Sentence Type
|He/She kick-s a ball (vs. *him/her)
She kick-s/ed, Tom's book (=poss),
The car goes (=SV) vs. (*goes Car)
--Paper Insert Radford
& Galasso 1998--
Some Parameters: (see Gass et al.)
Recent work regarding the role of specific L1
parameter settings in L2 learning have shown that indeed hypotheses
positing some kind of L2 transfer seem to be correct
The L2 parameter option for Pro-drop does seem to transfer
into L2. For instance, White (Gass et al.) found that French-speaking
subjects (studying English as an L2) seldom failed to identify
missing pronouns--that is, pro-drop was marked (French is
a Non Pro-drop language). Conversely, Spanish-speaking subjects
had difficulty switching to the parameter setting of Pro as
Agr/Infl (See §1.2.2)
Order (See Galasso 1999: handout)
How can we account for the protracted nature of L1 acquisition
are the qualitative differences between Functional and Lexical
categories, and why should a child have relatively
more difficulty in acquiring functional categories? (Cite
Q: What is behind the notion of a Principles and Parameters
based Theory (PPT) of language?
A Theory of L2 Acquisition: Leaping From L1 to L2
• For L2 acquisition,
the situation of learnability is similar, but not identical
to L1. It is clear, as it is for L1, that the evidence
learners have from L2 input is insufficient for the appropriate
determination of second language grammar.
using the UG paradigm attempt to explain this L2 acquisition
in a similar manner to L1 acquisition--via UG/Parameterization.
• Second language
learners have access to universal principles--either Indirectly,
through their L1, or Directly, in much the same way
as L1 acquisition.
a theory of L2 must make plain the interaction between innate
linguistic principles and input so as to explain how a learner
can arrive at a grammar of the target language
The learner already has knowledge of one’s (native) language
and a powerful system of general abstract problem-solving
skills. Within what general framework is the logical problem
of foreign language learning to be addressed? And specifically,
what is the role of the domain-specific learning system, including
principles of UG?
Does UG (LAD)
continue to function in adults?
=> Position 1: Direct UG Access
the Direct UG Access Hypothesis, UG is just as active in L2
as it was in L1. There are no clear distinctions regarding
UG--the differences may lie in the fact that now since parameters
are set via L1, parameters in L2 must too either be set accordingly
(whereas the two subsets of parameter settings set along side
each other), where there must be some sort of parameter re-setting
for L2. Like L1 acquisition, learners of the Direct Access
Model are considered to be unaware of what they are learning
(unconscious learning) and need nothing other than positive
evidence (via natural input) to set the values of parameters
and to instantiate principles. (Problem: Of course,
it becomes difficult to explain the vast difficulties encountered
in L2 learning under this model--what are these problems attributed
L1 & L2
Input => UG Principles/Parameters-->
--> L1 and L2 Grammars
=> Position 2: Indirect UG Access
One obvious possibility is that the innate system that
guides child acquisition no longer operates in adult foreign
language learning (or more weakly, that its operation is
partial and imperfect. This would easily explain why L2
learning is often a difficult and ultimately unsuccessful
task. This view is associated with Lenneberg's famous Critical
1. Fundamental Difference Hypothesis (Bley-Vroman)
argues against the position that adult and child language
learning are fundamentally the same and rejects the notion
that adults have access to UG via L2. He notes ten areas--including
the lack of success, variation in goals, significance of
instruction, etc. where adult L2 learning is unlike child
language acquisition, and where it shows greater similarity
to general adult problem solving. Bley-Vroman suggests
that some universal principles are indeed available through
the native language: i.e., the learner comes to the task
of learning a L2 with a set of assumptions about the nature
Bley-Vroman draws clear distinctions between 'learning'
and 'acquisition': acquisition refers to the
unconscious internalization of knowledge, while learning
refers to the conscious 'learning' of explicit rules (e.g.,
conscious memorization of grammar rules is held--correctly--not
to be the same thing as developing real language acquisition).
The differences between 'learning' and 'acquisition' or
child vs. adult language acquisition could be articulated
Internal: It is caused by differences in the internal
cognitive state of adults vs. children, not by external
It is caused by a change in the language faculty specifically,
not by general change in learning ability.
iii. Qualitative: It is a qualitative difference,
not merely quantitative.
Lack/Variation of Success and the employment of learning
strategies (lecture 2).
UG Access Model
L1 Input => UG
principles & Parameters => L1 =>L2 Grammar
|L2 Input =>----------------------------------
In the Indirect Model, positive evidence
(input) is still the driving force--but reduced to the extent
that L1 now serves somewhat as a filter to L2 obtainment:
viz., the implicit knowledge of L1 mediates L2 throughout
all the crucial stages of learning--particularly with regards
to parameterization. This would suggest that certain L2
learners will have difficulties with alternative parameter
settings--e.g., null subject language type L2 learners will
have difficulties accepting the obligatory nature of overt
sentential subjects (as in Spanish to English). (See Pro-drop
below). The advantage of this model is that now we can suggest
not just a quantitative difference, but more importantly
a qualitatively difference in the way one learns
L2 (contra the Direct Model).
The Fundamental Difference/Indirect UG Hypotheses could
be schematized as follows:
|I. Child Language Acquisition
||II. Adult L2 Learning
|a. Universal Grammar (innate access)
||a. Native L1 knowledge
|b. Domain-specific learning procedures
||b. General cognitive problem solving systems
In conclusion Suppose that
the original UG scheme is no longer available, the foreign
language learner can, in a sense, reconstruct much of the
UG principles via observing the L1 and the interaction between
the L1 and L2. (An overlapping notion of L1 serving as scaffolding
for L2 makes for a nice analogy here.) The adult language
learner therefore constructs a sort of surrogate for UG--adding
and overlapping onto the original template the native language.
This native language must then be 'sifted': that which is
likely to be universal must be separated from that which
is an accidental property of L1. (These properties of L1
tend to skew the L2 acquisition toward an L1 bias. The notion
of parameter (re-)setting is relevant here.)
Position 3: A Maturational UG Approach
Cognitive System (S. Felix)
Summary Felix has suggested that adults learning
L2 do not suffer from a learning deficit, but rather from
a learning excess. Felix claims that the more developed
cognitive problem solving apparatus in adults actually gets
in the way of natural language acquisition (as seen with
L2 learning). Felix correlates Piaget's early child stage
of concrete operations to the fact that young children can't
operate abstract formal systems (=Radford & Galasso's
1998) Lexical VP Stage). Hence, what Felix is on about is
the notion that L1 in children is automated via a Language
Specific Cognitive system (LSC). This is equivalent to LAD
that enables the child to acquire language even though her
Problem Solving Cognitive System (PSC) is immature and inactive.
Felix attempts to correlate and attribute that facts that
(i) children acquire language--even though their cognitive
(PSC) systems are undeveloped owing to their LSC)--with
the fact that (ii) adults find it very hard to acquire language--in
spite of a full-fledge cognitive (PSC) system. This explanation
has the advantage that it attributes the decline in adult
language learning to a specific cognitive development--the
rise of formal operations.
LSC => LAD 'innate'
(successful L1 acquisition/mastery)
b. As LSC changes/matures into PSC
(unsuccessful mastery of L2)
a. No access to LSC (LAD)
(Unsuccessful L2 master)
b.PSC kicks in at puberty
(General cognitive problem
solving skills interfere with
are applied to learning L2).
& Tsimpli on Cognition & L2 Acquisition--
'States' Model of Language Acquisition (V. Cook)
In this metaphor,
the language faculty itself changes (or matures) with time--there
is no separate UG, but a UG that steadily transforms itself:
||i. Principles (+ form in L1) (Lexical
||ii. Parameters (+Settings in L1)
||iii. Vocabulary (+L1 lexical items) => (Permissible
||(L2 learning would be subsumed under iii. here)
Cook claims that a grammar is a state of UG, not a product
of UG. The initial state of L2 is not zero because it already
incorporates an L1. This approach is similar to an Indirect
UG Access Hypothesis except for the fact that it assumes that
UG matures. This view--in a more radical version--could also
be taken as support for Felix's cognitive maturational model.
=> Position 4: No UG Access
suggests that UG is unavailable for L2 learning. Some other
cognitive (non-linguistic) learning strategy must
be activated. L2 under this model doesn't incorporate the
principles or parameter settings of UG. (Problems: (i) Such
a loosely constrained acquisition apparatus should entail
what we call wild grammars--i.e., grammars that don't have
a basis in UG. (ii) How can we account for studies supporting
L2 transfer hypotheses?)
|L1 Input =>
||UG Principles & Parameters => L1
|L2 Input =>
||Some other mental processes => L2 Grammar
1.2.2 Preliminary Results and Conclusions
In the case of L2 UG accessibility, the four positions as outlined
above predict very different outcomes for L2 language learning.
=> The first position (Direct UG Access) proposes
that as long as the language faculty (or possibly the LAD)
has been activated normally within due course for L1, then
there is no reason to believe that it can't become active
in the exact same way again. This model would suggests that
adults do not necessarily need to be handicapped in learning
L2--since no only is their Language faculty fully engaged
(as was for L1), but in addition so is their more cognitive
problem solving system mature. It is quite clear that this
should make for relatively easy access to L2--without any
substantial interference from L1.
(Problem: We later see that this is not born out in L2 studies
regarding L2 to L2 interference regarding parameter resetting,
etc. See Lecture 2).
=> The second position (Indirect UG Access) initial
gains the advantage in being able to account for the well
known facts concerning L2 leaning difficulty, fossilizing,
and general lack of success regarding acquisition. Clearly
a qualitative difference must apply to the adult learning
L2. Although this position also assumes UG to remain active
in the adult via the L1 grammar, UG doesn't however interact
directly with the L2 input, but merely indirectly (as a filter)
via the previously set parameterization of L1. In other words,
parameters do not get re-set here, but merely serve as a guide-line
in how to learn and develop a strategy for dealing with the
parameter. Adults never loss their L1 parameterization for
specific items, what they do is consciously manipulate what
they know of the input and map it onto an L1 UG. This
model has the benefit in accounting for the many language
transfer type errors found in the data. This is due to the
fact that the learner will more often than not assume that
the newly acquired language is similar to that of the native
language. In other words, the learner simply assumes the L1
value of the parameter setting still holds for L2.
=> The third position (A Maturational UG) challenges
the position that UG remains in a stable state throughout
the speakers' life-time and adds the strongest support yet
to Lenneberg's Critical Period. Taking a biological
stance where maturation is most certainly the default,
this view suggests that other cognitive means must be responsible
for any language learning.
(Problem: this model may in fact be too removed form UG--e.g.,
given such a model, how would we then account for any L1-L2
language transfer errors at all?)
(The No Access Model
clearly collides with theoretical
issues regarding linguistic theory.)
Experimental Design and Results (Galasso)
There have been
a number of recent studies to suggest that indeed L1 to L2
interference is common-place (cf. Flynn for Spanish &
Japanese, Liceras for Pro-drop, and Schachter. (Eds) Gass
and Schachter: 1989). The overwhelming data seem to point
to a position that advocates some form of an Indirect UG
Access. Galasso (in prep) likewise suggests that among
Immigrant Spanish Learners of (level-0/1) English, L1 interference
is so heavily influenced it often requires high intensity,
explicit strategy instruction to break the 'L1 parameter grip'.
The following examples indicate that parameterization--having
to do with Spanish as a Null Subject language--is extremely
difficult to dispense with.
Phonology (With Special Reference to Spanish L1 > English
=> English Sound System (consonants) (Celce-Murcia)
=> Spanish Articulation Problems (place & manner)
=> The Role of Context in Speech Comprehension: Unacceptable
He *looks / cooks eggs. ( /k/ -> /l/ )
=> Lexical vs. Functional Phonology: Morphophonemics
Lexical "s" vs. Functional "s" ,-ed,
Sally wear-ø strange sock-ø (=3prs 'S')
wear-s strange sock-s) (ESL omission of function ‘s’)
*Sally-ø sock-ø are strange
(Sally's socks are strange)
=> Drill Approximation
Visit /v/ => Bisit /b/
Family /f/ => fisit /f/ (targeting labio-dental fricative)
iii. Fisit => Visit or /f/ => /v/ (targeting voiced)
Promoting Oral Comm. Skills
Listening Listening Comprehension in
A Synthesis of Methods for Interactive
Methods: Learning Strategies in Second Language
In foreign language acquisition, different
learners also follow different paths (cf. Meisel, Clahsen, and
Pienemann: 1981). There is variation in what one might
call learning strategies--from large scale differences
like the distinction between "avoiding" and "guessing",
to something as specific as using very particular mnemonic tricks
and devices to aid memorization of vocabulary, etc. These tactics
resemble what one finds with general adult skill learning. Although
there has been some question over whether or not formal instruction
is a must for L2 acquisition--the fact that L2 can be learned
as a pidgin reinforces this view--L2 studies seem to show that
formal instruction does make a crucial difference in quantity
and quality of language learned. This suggests that L2 learning
is a type of general problem solving--e.g., cognitive models
for problem solving. (NB. This questions L2 learning in the
face of the Fundamental Difference Hypothesis that represents
a clear difference between cognition and language modularities.)
Variation in Learning
The lack of general
guaranteed success is the most striking characteristic of
adult language learning. In contrast to adults, children (L1)
inevitably achieve (=acquire vs. learn) perfect mastery of
the language. Well known chronic deficits include phonology
(accent), vocabulary retention, function word usage, and syntax.
This lack of general success typifies other characteristics
of domain-specific cognitive adult learning: e.g., playing
chess, bridge, the piano, etc. Any model (theory) that entails
uniform success--as child L1 models must and do--is a failure
as a model of adult language leaning. This is one reasoning
behind the important contribution of an innate LAD for child
L1 acquisition (one aspect of the Skinner vs. Chomsky debate).
=> Pidginized Systems:
Some learners develop "Pidginized" systems or grammars
to cope with their communication tasks. Although these devices
do not in themselves constitute a real language (proper),
they nonetheless are quite successful in communication. This
variation of strategy learning has basically taken and separated
those portions of a language which are made-up of more substantive-meaningful
units--e.g., lexical categories--and have dispensed with the
more formal non-substantive units--e.g., functional categories.
(See lecture 1 Lexical vs. Functionalism in child language
--Insert Bickerton: Pidgin/Proto-language--
Over Grammaticalization: In stark contrast
to Pidginization, other learners tend to dwell on those
more abstract and functional aspects of language--even to
the detriment of their fluency. In other words, they place
an extreme importance to formal grammar at the expense of
practical speech. Such students often thrive on written
examinations where grammar and paradigm memorization is
at its optimum--while on the other hand, such students tend
to dread more creative and oral spontaneous communication
(NB. Recall that the word 'Pidgin' may actually
be a borrowing from the English word 'Business'--showing
that this system's main goal is to facilitate language exchanges
in a basic level of communication for the market place.)
variation in aims & methods follows naturally from the
notion that L2 is an a posteriori adult learning
skill akin to other cognitive skills. It is to be expected
that different people will attack the required learning
differently--depending on the aims and the goals of the
student. Children, on the other hand, do not have the luxury
of setting their own goals--their motivation for language
is internally (innately) driven.
It has been long noted that learners of L2 eventually reach
a stage of learning--a stage short of success--and that
they then stabilize (fossilize) at this stage. Typically
speaking, aspects of fossilization will mostly constitute
some form of functionalism: e.g., English Nom. Case gender
*He(=she), *Him(=her), or 3Psg 'S (She
cook often). In children (L1), of course, there is
The above characteristics of foreign language
learning tend to lend to the conclusions that domain-specific
language-acquisition systems of children cease to operate
in adults--and that adult L2 learning resembles general
learning fields for which no domain-specific learning
system is believed to exist.
The best case scenario would hold that if adults function
with some form of principled UG for L2, it would have
to manifest itself at the very least Indirectly from UG--it
seems that a more robust cognitive learning apparatus
is behind the learning strategies discussed above.
2.2 Cognitive Theory in L2 Learning
Linguistics and Cognitive Psychology each posit separate and
different paradigms for describing L2 learning. While Linguistic
Theory assumes that language is acquired/learned separately
from cognitive skills (cf. Smith & Tsimpli), Cognitive Theory
assumes that a crucial link exists between language learning
and cognition--for examples, the development of information
processing frameworks for memory, storage, selection, etc.).
In this latter cognitive sense, language is ultimately tied
to both IQ and cognitive skills.
(NB. Cognitive Theory as presented here should
not be misconstrued as pertaining or belonging to the Cognitive
Approach which was heavily influenced by Chomsky himself vs.
2.2.1 L2 Strategies
Declarative vs. Procedural Knowledge
knowledge is things (in the world) that we know about--that
we have gained access to and can be stored in our memory. Such
things are factual, experiential, emotional, etc. One defining
aspect of Declarative Knowledge is that it can easily be pass-on
(taught & learned) to people, generations and culture. This
type of knowledge differs from Procedural knowledge in the sense
that it can be negative or even disregarded. Procedural knowledge
seems to have a more innate and biological nature. Declarative
knowledge for L2 learning principally consists of the formal
rules of language.
=> Procedural Knowledge (akin to cognitive skills)
refers to the ability to perform or manipulate various mental
procedures. The natural way a child uses the LAD (UG) to acquire
language would be an example of Procedural knowledge.
Consequences for L2 An
interesting paradigm can be drawn here between
(i) the natural way in which a child acquires her
L1 (=Procedural), [and the way
(ii) a person goes about learning an L2 (Declarative).
Such a paradigm would enable us to give a quasi-cognitive
explanation for the many persisting Quantitative & Qualitative
differences found between L1 'acquisition' and L2 'learning'
(as discussed in this paper)--namely, a declarative knowledge
requiring much more cognitive scope & powers puts a heavier
burden on the brain. (In other words, for the computer buffs
among us: Declarative Knowledge is analogous to software (hence,
it is easier to manipulate though much more prone to processing
difficulties), while Procedural knowledge is hard/wired-ware
(hence, it is virtually impossible to manipulate).
=> Following the argument above, a cognitive
three-staged development can be sketched for L2 learning (O'Malley
et al.: 25-27):
1. Cognitive Stage This first stage involves conscious
activity in L2 on the part of the learner--what knowledge that
is acquired is purely Declarative (vocabulary memory, grammatical
rules, etc.) At this stage, L2 Interferences are at its maximum
since L2 declarative knowledge is in one-to-one competition
with its L1 counterpart. (L1 usually wins).
=> L2 is heavily influenced-dominated by L1
2. Associative Stage This second stage represents
the trial & errors period in which L2 attempts to map onto
L1. Errors of this kind start to be identified, analyzed and
corrected--sometimes overcorrected. During this stage, the L2
declarative knowledge is beginning to be refined as procedural
knowledge. A certain automacy develops in the L2--although declarative
knowledge surfaces (prompting L1 interference type errors: vocabulary
laps, grammar, etc.).
=> L2 is still influences but to a lesser degree.
3. Autonomous Stage Finally, Declarative knowledge
is seeded as procedural knowledge--L2 performance becomes fine-tuned
or even mastered. The L2 speaker becomes unaware of grammatical
rules and may often code-switch the two languages between precise
=> L2 is seemingly incorporated into L1
=> It is believed (cf. Anderson: 1980) that declarative
knowledge can become proceduralized through practice. However,
it may be that some types of declarative knowledge are easier
to access and assimilate into procedural knowledge than others.
=> The Functional vs. Lexical categorical distinctions
seem to play a role here in what first gets accessed in L2:
items tend to be learned at the
very earliest stage of L2 learning.
items and more abstract grammatical
elements tend to follow lexical items in a
=> A maturational time-table for L2 Learning
Relating what has been said above regarding Declarative vs.
Procedural knowledge, a maturational time-table can be erected
showing how the three stages above get assimilated in the brain
of an L2 subject. Similar to L1 child language acquisition,
L2 learners start with certain predisposed assumptions about
how language works.
The first maturational stage attempts to filter
the L2 material in ways that are similar to L1--this, at times,
has the consequence of trying to square a circle. As more declarative
L2 knowledge gets filtered, more positive evidence becomes available
to the subject, L2 to L1 inconsistencies become apparent. (This
is consistent with parameter mis-settings, L1 interference,
The second maturational stage attempts to reanalyze
the L2 data--from the starting point of L1. Cognitive Strategies
for learning L2 show up here.
The third and final stage (corresponding to the
Autonomous stage) represents the point at which the subject
assimilates the L2 declarative knowledge and makes it part of
his/her procedural knowledge. L2 mastery takes place once L2
declarative knowledge gets assimilated roughly in the same manner
as the L1 (innate) procedural knowledge (in child language acquisition).
(NB. Of course, the larger question here is--Does L2 Declarative
Knowledge ever really get to the stage where we can claim it as
=> Top Down vs. Bottom Up
processes which tend to rely solely on the one-to-one meaning
relation (i.e., Iconic). (An example of this would be a child
trying to memorize meanings of individual lexical items on a
definition basis only--i.e., without collocation properties
or context.) An Item is analyzed in isolation of its context+.
Top-Down More advances
processes that activate several specific types of information
stored in memory in the form of contextual or experiential facts
about the world. Adult L2 learners have vast amounts of Top-down
capacities that can help in L2 learning. This clearly is not
the case for L1 child language acquisition where any top-down
material would come by way of innate knowledge (The LAD).
Assigned Readings in Celce-Murcia
=> Reading Academic
Reading and the ESL/EFL Teacher
=> Writing Grammar in
=> Grammar Teaching Grammar
Methods: Language Teaching Approaches
3.0 Overview & Introduction
The section presents the various approaches and methodologies
for ESL teaching. By examining the stages of L1 acquisition,
and then by applying it as a feasible L2 learning apparatus,
we hope to better understand the implications--benefits and
shortcomings--of the various approaches.
3.1 A Survey of Current Approaches
=> Affective-Humanistic Approach (Curran, Galyean)
Meaningful Communication (input =output,
Zero resistance and low anxiety
Individual learning at one's pace
Class atmosphere more important than
materials or methods
* Instruction methods should be designed around the concept of
(i) breaking all known psychological barriers to learning while,
at the same time, (ii) tapping and unleashing more successful forms
of learning. => Comprehension-Based Approaches (Terrel,
- Focus on receptive skills first
- The two processes--sending & receiving--entail different
- L1/L2 goes through a (stage-1) silent stage--focus on comprehension
- L2 learning is centered around extracting chucks of a language
- L1 is looked on as being similar to L2 in terms of motor
skills (for the former) and production skills (for the latter)--a
natural process is at hand
- Increase amount of language data processed per unit of
* Instruction methods focus on establishing the core productions
of speech--talking and comprehension are the key words here
=> Production-Based Learning Approaches (Bar-Lev)
- Target language/structure is devised and presented in
a way to maximize its natural simplicity. Although targets
may seem somewhat unnatural to a native speaker (even though
not ungrammatical), their mapping from L2 to L1 is enhanced
- The targets of all language instruction must always be
authentic: grammar, pronunciation, etc. This goes against
notions that L2 subjects will eventually iron out their
language errors (fossilization)
- Meaningful speech production is the aim from the start.
* Instruction methods strive to facilitate early language usage
in any way possible.
=> Cognitive Approach (Chomsky vs. Skinner, Pinker,
Clahsen & Muysken)
- Language learning is viewed as rule acquisition and cognitive--not
- Grammar must be taught--inductively (rules after practice)
or deductively (practice after rules)
- Focus on Analyses of language
* Instruction methods incorporate what we have learned in the linguistic--psychological
schools notably driven by Noam Chomsky.
3.2 An Integrated Approach
=> The Role of Teaching Literature in ESL/EFL Today
- Vocabulary: Culture tied idioms and expressions vs. the universals
of story telling.
- Grammar: Syntax in context--grammar analyses within the reading
- As a source for writing--rich context, as a springboard for
personal writing, etc.
- Speaking may be pursued via oral presentation--with readings
again serving as a springboard for individual presentation topics.
- Oral Reading: Oral presentations may be initiated as a writing
assignment, and then carried over as a speaking presentation (with
reading involved as an option).
- Group Activities
Assigned Readings in Celce-Murcia
=> Approaches Language Teaching Approaches (Abstracts
Cornerstones of Method
and Names of the Profession
Some bulleted / (=>) notes are taken from out of
context and are arranged as an abstract by Joseph Galasso strictly
for purposes of teaching only. Appropriate coordinated references
are given at the end of the paper.
Bickerton, D. (1990)
Language and Species. University of Chicago Press
(ed. 1991) Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language.
Heinle & Heinle Pub.
Chomsky, N. (1959)
Review of B.F. Skinner Verbal Behavior. Language, 35,
of the Theory of Syntax. Cambridge, Mass. Press.
and Parameters in Syntactic Theory'. In Explanation in Linguistics:
The logical problem of language acquisition. (eds) N.
Hornstein and D. Lightfoot. Longman: London.
Clahsen, H. &
Muysken, P. (1986) 'The Availability of Universal Grammar to
Adult and Child Learners'. Second Language Research.
Cook, V.J. (1988)
Chomsky's Universal Grammar: An Introduction.
Blackwell: Oxford. (ms. 1994) The Metaphor of Access to Universal
Grammar in L2 Learning. University of Essex (Appears
in Implicit and Explicit Learning of Language: Academic Press.
Felix, S. (1981)
'On the (in)applicability of Piagetian thought to language learning'.
Studies in Second Language Acquisition. 3: 201-20.
Galasso, J. (1999)
Interference in Second Language Acquisition: A Case Study
into the Transfer of Functional Categories (Spanish
Gass, S. & Schachter,
Lenneberg, E. (1967)
Biological Foundations of Language. Wiley Press: New
Meisel, J. Clahsen,
H. Pienemann, M. (1981) 'On determining developmental stages
in natural second language acquisition'. Studies in Second
Language Acquisition 3:109-35
O'Malley, J.M. &
Chamot, A.U. (1990) Learning Strategies in Second Language
Acquisition. Cambridge University Press.
(ed. 1980) Language and Learning: the debate between Jean
Piaget and Noam Chomsky. Routledge & Kegan Paul: London.
Pinker, S. (1984)
Language Learnability and Language Development. Harvard
Univ. Press: Cambridge, Mass
Radford, A. (1990)
Syntactic Theory and the Acquisition of English Syntax: The
Nature of Early Child Grammars in English. Blackwell: Oxford.
Radford, A. &
Galasso, J. (1998) 'Children's Possessive Structures: A Case
Study'. Essex Research Reports in Linguistics. 19, April
Smith, N. I.M. Tsimpli
(1995) The Mind of a Savant: Language Learning and
Modularity. Blackwell: Oxford.