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Second Language Acquisition


Is the L2 learner trying to wind up with same knowledge that a native ... 1) Eight very lazy elephants drank brandy. 2)*Eight elephants very lazy brandy drank. ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Second Language Acquisition

Second Language Acquisition
  • Part 1

What is SLA (L2A)?
  • Is it grammar knowledge?
  • Is it communication skills?
  • Is the L2 learner trying to wind up with same
    knowledge that a native speaker has?
  • Do they get there? Do they learn something else?
    What do they learn? How? In what order? What
    helps, what doesn't help?
  • SLA is concerned with how people learn a
  • second language and to provide a sound
  • Psycholinguistic basis for SL teaching.

  • Linguistics
  • L2A is a component of the broader study of the
    uniquely human faculty for language 
  • Language Pedagogy
  • Designing effective teaching methodologies
    assessing reasonable expectations
  • Language Policy
  • Bilingual education, language laws

First Language Acquisition (L1A)
  • What do you know about how children learn their
    first language?
  • What are the stages of first language acquisition
    ? What is a child doing in each of these stages?

What do we know from L1A some hypotheses
  • Humans are born with LAD (a system)
  • Children go through different stages during L1A
  • Children go through similar stages (babbling at 6
    mo, 1-word utterances at 1 yr, 2 word utterances
    at 1.5 yrs, word inflections at 3yrs, complex
    constructions around 5 years, and mature speech
    around 10 yrs)
  • There is also consistency in stages of learning
    word inflections across children learning the
    same language (e.g. in English progressive
    ing, prepositions, plural, irregular past tense,
    possessive, articles)
  • Critical period of language learning
    correlation between age and eventual success
  • Language ability does not seem to be correlated
    with intelligence.

  • If we are trying to study to L2A proceeds, we
    should have some idea what needs to be learned
  • Simply, speaking one needs to learn "grammar" and
    "lexicon", but what is grammar?
  • How do we characterize the knowledge that
    speakers have of language?
  • We notice difficulties that L2 learners face -
    why is this potentially difficult?
  • The knowledge that we have of our L1 is largely
  • Very young children can form complex
    constructions (e.g. I want the toy that boy is
    playing with.) but they couldn't tell you about
    relative clauses.
  • We can study this knowledge from the outside

  • Even if you've never heard these
  • sentences before, you know which one is
  • "English" and which one isn't
  • 1) Eight very lazy elephants drank brandy.
  • 2)Eight elephants very lazy brandy drank.

  • Syntax knowing which sentences are acceptable
    and which aren't
  • Phonology knowing the sounds of the knowledge,
    for ex knowing the snip is a word but not nsip.
  • Morphology knowing how to form words out of
    smaller parts, for ex. Act --actor
  • antidisestablishmentarianism
  • Lexicon knowing the word for apple or that learn
    is a verb.
  • Semantics Knowing word meanings, for ex That
    bachelor is married (is semantically wrong)
  • Pragmatics Knowing how to use language -
    context, function
  • COMPETENCE speaker's knowledge of language
  • PERFORMANCE speaker's use of language

  • Speakers (native) of English know -
  • 1)     Tony threw out the couch
  • 2)     Tony threw the couch out
  • 3)     Tony stormed out the door
  • 4)     Tony stormed the door out. (Hmm?)
  • 5)     What did Mary say John bought?
  • 6)     What did Mary say that John bought?
  • 7)     Who did Mary say bought that coffee?
  • 8)     Who did Mary say that bought coffee
  • 9) I asked Mary to buy coffee
  • 10) What did you ask Mary to buy?
  • 11) I saw the book about aliens on the table
  • 12)What did you see the book about on the table?

  • Every native speaker of English knows these
    things they have the same intuitions about the
    possibility vs. impossibility of these sentences.
  • No native speaker of English was taught about the
    rule of question formation, or negation, or
    relative clauses.
  • They know it anywaythey end up with a system

  • Our knowledge of our L1 is multifaceted and very
  • anyone who grew up in an environment like ours
    may have learned these complex facets as we did.
  • Consider, how did kids pick up this complex

What about kids? Do they know everything?
  • Well, no. No matter where a person is born (i.e.
    to parents speaking whatever language) the person
    will pick up the language spoken in the ambient
    childhood environment.
  • Kids somehow come to know the rules of the
    language, different for each language (bilingual
    children figure out the rules in more than one

Look at the following language sample-
  • A speaker says I eated chicken yesterday
  • Who is likely to make this utterance?
  • Child learning L1?
  • Beginning learner of L2?
  • L2 speaker for 35 years?
  • Then, the same speaker says I ate chicken
  • Is this target like?
  • Has the past form been acquired yet? 
  • Then, you hear from the same speaker
  • I goed to visit grandma yesterday

Why Study Developmental Patterns?
  • To describe learner language in its own right,
    as a system of rules that learners construct and
    revise repeatedly.
  • also known as - INTERLANGUAGE

Does the Acquisition of an L2 mimic what happens
in L1 Acquisition?L1 L2 Hypothesis
  • Yes and No more similar than dissimilar

L1 Acquisition development studies have found
clear orders and sequences Brown (1973) and de
Villiers and de Villiers (1973)
  • L2 Acquisition development studies
  • have also found clear orders sequences
  • Dulay and Burt (1973), Bailey, Madden,
  • Krashen(1974), Larsen-Freeman (1976),
  • Pica(1983)

L1A and L2A
  • Children from different language backgrounds
    (Spanish and Chinese) learning a English as L2
    showed similar order of acquisition of word
    inflections as that of L1.
  • It is not surprising that as children they were
    acquiring their L2 (English) in much the same way
    as their L1.
  • This finding could not be generalized to adult L2
    acquisition of English.

Early L2 development is generally characterized
  • Silent period
  • Formulaic speech
  • Structural and semantic simplification
  • Patterns similar to L1 acquisition

Some conclusions -
  • There are many questions regard to L2A and L1A
    that continue to be debated, but the bottom line
    seems to be that L2A, invariant of the L1,
    progresses in a systematic order that is similar
    to but not completely identical to the orders
    observed in L1A.

Historical Perspective Recent History on L2A
  • Behaviorism
  • In the 1950s and 1960s, the techniques
  • of language teaching were based on a
  • behaviorist view of language.
  • Language under this view is essentially a system
  • habits, learning proceeds by producing a response
  • A stimulus and receiving either positive or
  • reinforcement.

Behaviorism contd.
  • Based on this view, language teaching was seen to
    involve a lot of pattern repetitions to instill
    proper habits in the learner.
  • For L2 learners, there was also the matter of
    unlearning certain interfering habits from the

Behaviorism Contrastive Analysis
  • Views on Behaviorism led to a belief that the
    proper focus on teaching need to be where the L1
    and L2 differ, since these were going to be
    problem areas. This view is referred to as the CA
  • CA research focused on comparing and contrasting
    languages to find the areas of differences.
  • Learner errors could be accounted for by looking
    at the differences between languages.
  • Differences must be taught similarities will be
    implicitly transferred from the L1.
  • Difficulty in learning a L2 is determined by the
    differences between the L1 and the L2.

Problems with this thinking -
  • Chomsky pointed out that language isnt a
    collection of habits.
  • L1 acquisition shows that children do not merely
    repeat what they have heard they very often use
    language creatively, producing things that they
    have never heard before. They show evidence of
    internalized rules by producing sentences like
    He goed..

Problems with this thinking
  • L2 learners do a lot of the same things
    (overgeneralized forms like He comed.
  • Many errors that L2 learners make cannot be
    traced to the influence of their L1.
  • transfer of habits doesnt seem to be
  • CA didnt seem to be able to predict individual
    psycholinguistic difficulty of a L2 learner,
    whereby a learner could easily produce and
    erroneous form, struggle with the form, and then
    produce a correct form.
  • It is not an easy to straightforwardly enumerate
    the differences between languages, hence it is
    hard to predict where the problems would arise.

Error Analysis one of next steps
  • Since CA did not turn out to be a productive
    pedagogical tool, the next steps was to look at
    the errors that students were making to determine
    the source of the error
  • Error NOT THE SAME AS mistake
  • Errors are systematic deviations made by learners
    who have not yet mastered the rules of the L2
    they cannot be self-corrected and reveal the
    learners underlying competence or hypotheses
    about rules.
  • Mistakes are random performance slips caused by
    fatigue, excitement etc. and it can be easily
  • The expectation is that learning the source of
    the error, would reveal more about interference
    and developmental patterns.

Error Analysis
  • One of the conclusions reached from analyzing L2
    learner errors was that the majority of the
    errors were not the result of L1 interference,
    but they were rather internal errors of the
    interlanguage of the learner.
  • EA hypothesized that L2 learners had a
    grammatical system, interlanguage, that was
    non-target like on the way to the TL.
  • This is a developing system and hence the
    question of stages of development are raised.

Error Analysis problems
  • Focus on errors denied access to the whole
  • The sources of many errors could not be
  • Did not account for all the areas in which the
    learner was having difficulty (avoidance of

Interlanguage(IL) looking at the learners
interim language
  • The intermediate status of the learners system
    between the L1 and the L2
  • It is the continuum between the L1 and the L2
    along which all L2 learners traverse, showing
    evidence that the process of L2 development is
    systematic and rule governed
  • Systematic stages of IL development are seen in
    the acquisition of interrogatives, negation, word
    order, and other aspects of syntax.

  • Stages of Negation
  • No X (no book no is happy no you pay it)
  • No/Dont verb (I dont like LA I dont swim I
    dont can play good He dont like job.)
  • Auxiliary negation (I cant play It wasnt
  • Unanalyzed dont and auxiliary negative (I
    dont like apples I cant play She doesnt
    drink alchohol They werent at home)

  • Acquisition of Questions
  • WH declarative order (What you want, what you
    eat, where we go)
  • Stage 1 utterances continue be is inverted
    few examples of other verb inversions (where is
    mines, where is Johns, what say they)
  • Be is correctly useddo emerges in WH
    questions do appears correctly in Y/N
    answers double marking of tenses (where did he
    found it wheres this one belongs)

Implications for teachers
  • Look at learners errors carefully
  • Dont be misled by constructions in stage 2
  • Pay attention to fossilization
  • Work with students errors
  • Discuss, analyze, categorize
  • Dont overcorrect
  • Encourage self-correction
  • Be sensitive dont embarrass
  • Model correct answers
  • Dont ignore errors
  • Motivate and encourage success
  • Create an atmosphere that will encourage students
    to produce in the L2.

Krashens Monitor Model
  • An early and influential model of L2A
  • The Acquisition-Learning Hypothesis
  • The Monitor Hypothesis
  • The Natural Order Hypothesis
  • The Input Hypothesis
  • The Affective Filter Hypothesis

Acquisition versus Learning
  • Acquisition refers to the subconscious
    internalizing of implicit rules the result of
    meaningful, naturalistic interaction using the
    language. (Natural Approach)
  • Learning refers to the conscious process that
    results in knowing about the language, i.e. the
    result of classroom experience with explicit

The role of input
  • Modified and adjusted input foreigner talk
    (good and bad)
  • Comprehensible input (i1)

The Role of Formal Instruction
  • Instruction has positive effects on L2A (rate,
    ultimate level of attainment)
  • Lot more structured and classroom-based research
    need to be done to make more substantial claims
    on the specific benefits of instruction on L2A.