LINGUIST List 11.1509

Tue Jul 11 2000

Review: Archibald: 2nd Lang Acq. & Ling Theory

Editor for this issue: Andrew Carnie <carnielinguistlist.org>


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  1. Antrim, Nancy Mae, Review Archibald

Message 1: Review Archibald

Date: Thu, 6 Jul 2000 10:33:30 -0600
From: Antrim, Nancy Mae <nantrimutep.edu>
Subject: Review Archibald

John Archibald, ed. Second Language Acquisition and Linguistic Theory.
Blackwell: Malden, MA. 256 pages. $29.95


Nancy Mae Antrim, University of Texas at El Paso

This volume consists of seven chapters concerning different sub-fields of
second language acquisition research by various authors and an introduction
by the editor. In his introduction John Archibald, a professor of
linguistics at the University of Calgary who specializes in the acquisition
of phonology in first and second languages, briefly outlines the seven
chapters noting the increasing amount of research in second language
acquisition. Intending this volume as a source allowing researchers to keep
current in fields outside their areas of expertise, Archibald also suggests
its use for either advanced undergraduate or graduate courses. 
Each chapter begins with an overview of the major research in the subfield
discussed and concludes with an extensive bibliography; both features that
support this book's use as a student text. Each chapter addresses the status
of second langage acquisition with respect to one or more of the major
issues confronting the field:
	1. To what extent does the Second Language Learner have access to
Universal Grammar (UG)?
	2. How does the learner's first language (L1) interact with Second
Lanuage Acquisition?
	3. How do we account for the variability in attainment of second
language proficiency?
Although the unifying assumption underlying these chapters is that of the
formalist, generative tradition, the research cited is not restricted to
that tradition.

Chapter 1: The Interrelation between speech perception and phonological
acquisition from infant to adult by Cynthia Brown (Assistant Professor of
Linguistics at the University of Delaware) pp. 4-63.

After an overview of previous research and an explanation of the theory of
feature geometry, Brown looks at the findings from infant speech perception
research, suggesting that there is a causal link between the development of
the learner's feature geometry and the decline of their perceptual
capabilities. This phonological structure acts as a filter between the
acoustic signal and the processing system channeling the second language
phonemes in the learner's first language phonemic categories. She reports on
three experimental studies which investigated the acquisition of particular
English contrasts by a particular group (Japanese), cross-linguistically
(Japanese, Korean and Mandarian Chinese), and at various levels within a
group (Japanese). Each experiment involved tests of perception and
phonological competence. Where the first language feature inventory
contained the feature involved in the English contrast, the contrast was
perceived. Furthermore, it was found that the negative influence of the
native grammar's lack of a contrastive feature was absolute, the positive
influence was enhanced as the learner progressed.
This was the longest of the chapters, in part because of the extensive
background discussion and the thorough discussion of the experiments. There
were a number of diagrams illustrating the concepts involved as well as
charts summarizing the research. This chapter was clearly and well written,
readily accessible to advanced undergraduates.

Chapter 2: Second language syllable structure by Martha Young-Scholten and
John Archibald. Young-Scholten is a senior lecturer at the University of
Durham.pp.64-101.

This chapter considers the interaction between segmental features and
syllable structure and between syllable structure and prosodic organization.
Looking at findings from first language acquisition of consonant clusters in
quantity-senstive languages (English, German and Dutch), the authors note
that insertion of vowels to break up consonant clusters (epenthesis) is not
prominent in child phonologies. Citing research on various first languages
(e.g. Korean, Polish, French, Turkish, among others), they suggest that
exposure to written texts in the case of adult language learners plays a
role in determining the strategies used with syllabification. Adult language
learners use more epenthesis, but less deletion of unstressed syllables than
children do. Buiding on the findings in Brown's chapter, Young-Scholten and
Archibald suggest that it is not merely the canonical CV structure that is
transferred from a learner's first language, but the complex interaction of
the segmental inventory which determines the feature geometry of a segment
that influences what sequences of segments are allowed in the developing
second language. With respect to sonority distance, they reanalize the
Korean data from Broselow and Finer (1991) and add some additional data from
Finnish and find that the ease of acquisition of consonant clusters for the
Finnish speaker can be accounted for because Finnish has the liquid contrast
while Korean which does not have this contrast requires the Korean speaker
to adjust their feature inventory. They propose a model of hierarchical
segment structure which treats sonority as a phonological construct thus
linking the second language learner's acquisition of segments to the
acquisition of the second language phonological inventory.
In their introduction, Young-Scholten and Archibald state they plan to give
an overview of "a number of issues" related to the acquisition of syllable
structure, which resulted in a less thorough treatment of the research
background than was seen in Brown. This was also a shorter chapter. The
extensive use of tables was helpful in summarizing the material, but a
lenthier discussion of the research cited would benefit undergraduates using
this book.

Chapter 3: Mapping features to forms in second language acquisition by Donna
Lardiere (Associate Professor of Applied and Theoretical Linguistics at
Georgetown University) pp. 102-129.

Lardiere discusses morphological form and verb-raising looking at recent
attempts to define the notion of feature strength. Proposals by Rohrbacher
(1994), Vikner (1995) and Pollock (1997) all require extensive paradigmatic
knowledge of morphological form to determine a strong/weak distinction that
triggers verb-raising which is unknown to young children despite their
knowledge of the verb-raising status of their language. Research on child
language acquistion suggestd that morphological deficits in early first
language production do not reflect syntactic deficits. Using data from a
longitundinal study of a native-Chinese speaker, Lardiere finds evidence
that indicates a sharp dissociation of syntactic knowledge from verbal
morphology marking in second language learning. Her Chinese subject shows
evidence of tense and morphological case, agreement and optional
verb-raising as well as evidence for a CP projection. She concludes that the
problem for second language learners is a "mapping" problem - how and
whether to "spell-out" morphologically the categories that they already have
syntactically. In considering the acquisition of morphological markings, a
distinction is drawn between features that are fundamental to the
derivational computation such as case as opposed to those which are
basically morphological in nature, such as gender. She speculates that it is
with these less fundamental categories that fossilization and critical
period effects occur.
This chapter provides a thorough discussion of the Rohrbacher, Vikner and
Pollock proposals as well as the research in first language acquisition. Its
only serious shortcoming is the scarcity of second language acquisition data
in support of her proposal. A number of studies cited gave admittedly mixed
or contradictory results. It will be interesting to see whether her proposal
is upheld crosslinguistically and if age of acquisittion is a contributing
factor as suggested by Pr�vost and White. This chapter would be readily
accessible to undergraduate students.

Chapter 4: Second Language Acquisition: from initial to final state by Lydia
White (Professor of Linguistics at McGill University) pp. 130-155.

This chapter begins with an overview of perspectives on the initial state of
a second language with respect to access to UG and transfer of first
language. White raises the question of what should count as data for
evidence for this initial state. This question entails several problems.
First is the use of "absence of evidence as evidence of absence," Secondly
is the relation between accuracy and acquisition. This is tied to the third
problem. How many occurrences are necessary for a form to be considered
acquired? Finally, is the first data obtained really data pertaining to the
initial state if we assume a "silent period." White compares claims that
each position makes for the initial state of a second language grammar, the
subsequent developing grammars and the final state of the second language
grammar. She suggests that problems exist with full versus partial transfer
of the first language as well as with full versus partial access to
universal grammar. A better approach she claims is to treat the UG question
in terms of unimpaired versus impaired operations.
While a relatively short chapter, a number of interesting issues are raised
that should provoke lively discussions at even a lower division acquisition
course. Proponents of each perspective on the initial state of second
language grammars are discussed. There are diagrams for each perspective as
well as a summary table.

Chapter 5: When Syntactic Theories Evolve: Consequences for L2 acquisition
research by Bonnie D. Schwartz (Reader in the Department of Linguistics and
Englsh Language at the University of Durham) and Rex A. Sprouse (Associate
Professor of Germanic Studies at Indiana University) pp.156-186

Schwartz and Sprouse discuss how revisions in linguistic theory can affect
the conclusions drawn in second language acquisition research and suggest
that this problem can be avoided. They advocate the examination of
interlanguage data for evidence of UG-derived poverty of stimulus phenomena
and comparative interlanguage research to determine the role of first
language transfer. Citing their own longitundinal study of the acquisition
of German word order by adult native speakers of Turkish, their data shows
an asymmetry between pronominal and nonpronominal subjects with respect to
inversion. This asymmetry is found in neither German or Turkish; however, it
is found in French suggesting that their subjects' interlanguage reflects
linguistic knowledge arising in the absence of direct experience. They cite
other studies based on principles, such as the Empty Category Principle
(EPC), which have been superseded by other principles. The data in these
studies still demonstrates that the development of a second language grammar
is constrained by UG. They suggest that transfer effects can be observed by
comparing the interlanguage developed by typologically distinct first
languages.
This chapter also provides food for thought and discussion. Schwartz and
Sprouse provide not only discussions of the research, but the underlying
theory involved and how the changes in theory - their "shifting tides of
syntactic formalism" (p. 182) - effect the conclusions drawn. It is their
clear discussioin of the theory that would enable undergraduates to follow
this chapter.

Chapter 6: An overview of the Second Language Acquisition of Links between
Verb Semantics and Morpho-Syntax by Alan Juffs (Associate Professor of
Linguistics at the University of Pittsburgh) pp. 187-227.

Modifying Pinker's (1989) framework for verb classes which describes verbs
as belonging to verb classes that are defined by a common decompositional
structure which determines the number and position of arguments in the
clause, Juffs sets limits on both the types of meaning units and the rules
combining them. From this position, he examines research on psych verbs and
on the alternation found within the verb phrase (VP) as found in dative and
locative constructions. Apparently rejecting the VP-internal hypothesis for
subjects, he considers causative/inchoative alternations and split
intransitivity as alternation in VP internal direct object position and
external subject position. He concludes that adult learners are able to
develop a native-like grammar in a second language but not directly. This
development is mediated by universal principles and interference from the
first language morpho-syntax. Throughout the chapter he calls for further
research because of the difficulty in comparing studies employing different
methodologies. He states that more cross-linguistic data is needed to
account for the relationship between semantic structure and morphology as
well as the relationship between input and acquisition.
Juffs uses a number of tables summarizing the research he discusses. He also
has numerous examples illustrating the constructions involved. The
background research he addresses and the framework he adopts are well
presented, making the chapter accessible by undergraduates.

Chapter 7: Representation and Processing in the Second Language Lexicon: the
Homogeneity Hypothesis by Gary Libben (Professor of Linguistics at the
University of Alberta, Canada) pp. 228-248.

In this final chapter, Libben revises proposals of how languages are stored
and how words are linked to concepts. He argues that monolingual and
bilingual lexical processing data are not separate. He claims that both
monolinguals and bilinguals have the same kinds of lexical representations
and employ the same processes in activating words in the mental lexicon.
While he argues for a single lexicon and identical priming effects, he does
not claim the the priming effects are equivalent in strength. Using data
from homograph priming effects reported by Dijkstra et al (1998), he
demonstrates his proposed Homogeneity Hypothesis. He argues that the true
bilingual, contra the compound-coordinate dichotomy model, has fully
integrated all lexical knowledge and has the same connections for their
second language representations as monolingual ones have. The mental lexicon
stores lexical representations and involves the automatic processes that act
on this representations. He further claims that all volitional aspects of
language use including translation and code-switching involve cognitive
processes that occur outside the mental lexicon. Libben's proposal deals
with organizational homogeneity and at the end of the chapter he raises the
question as to whether this proposal could be extended to representational
and morphological homogeneity.
Libben proposes an interesting hypotesis; however, data from aphasia studies
is not addressed. How would this hypothesis account for the loss of only one
language in a bilingual aphasic? This chapter raises some interesting
questions with respect to representations of "words" considering
language-specific morphology and cultural semantic conceptual variation.
There are a number of diagrams to illustrate the concepts discussed which
would help undergraduates follow his discussion. 

Despite having two chapters focused on phonology, this volume does provide
an overview of several subfields in second language research, including
morphology, syntax, and semantics. Since the underlying framework is
generative formalism, there is understandably no discussion of pragmatics or
sociolinguistic themes; whether this is viewed as a limitation depends on
the reader's perspective. I would use this as a readings text for a course
on second language acquisition. The issues raised, the research cited and
the discussions would be beneficial both for the linguist and the
linguistics student. 
 
Works cited:
Broselow, E. and Finer, D. (1991) Parameter setting in second language
phonology and syntax, Second Language Research 7: 35-59.
Dijkstra, T., Van Jaarsveld, H. and Brinke, S. (1998) Interlingual homophone
recognition: Effects of task demands and language intermixing. Bilingualism:
Language and Cognition 1:51-66.
Pinker, S. (1989) Learnability and Cognition: The Acquisition of Argument
Structure. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Pollock, J.-Y. (1997) Notes on clause structure in L. Haegeman (ed.)
Elements of Grammar, pp.237-79. Dordrecht: Kluwer.
Pr�vost, P. and White, L. (in press) Truncation and missing inflection in
second language acquisitionn. To appear in M.A. Friedmann and L. Rizzi,
(eds.), The Acquisition of Syntax. Longman.
Rohrbacher, B. (1994) The Germanic VO Languages and the Full Paradigm. Ph.D.
Dissertation, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Vikner, S. (1995) V-I movement and inflection for person in all tenses.
Working Papers in Scandinavian Syntax 55:1-27.

Nancy Mae Antrim, Ph.D. is an assistant professor at the University of Texas
at EL Paso where she teaches language acquisition and second language
teaching methodology. Her research interests reflect both her training in
formal theoretical linguistics and her experience in teaching. These
interests include the acquistion of rhetorical style in second language
writing, attitudes toward language use, and possessive constructions in
Romance languages.
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