LINGUIST List 11.2151

Thu Oct 5 2000

Disc: Review Green

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>


  1. Kevin R. Gregg, Re: 11.2138, Disc: Review Green
  2. Ronald Sheen, Re: 11.2113, Disc: Review Green

Message 1: Re: 11.2138, Disc: Review Green

Date: Thu, 05 Oct 2000 12:03:12 +0900
From: Kevin R. Gregg <>
Subject: Re: 11.2138, Disc: Review Green

>From: "Robert R. Ratcliffe" <>
>Subject: Re: 11.2128, Disc: Review Green
>My understanding
>(possibly misunderstanding) of the generative position is that a sharp
>nature-nurture distinction is drawn: L1 acquisition is assumed to be a
>biological development process like development of vision, L2 acquistion
>purely cultural learning, like learning geography.
>Let's agree that there are some differences in the results of L1 and L2
>acquisition, is this sharp biology-culture distinction the best way to
>account for them? If you say yes then a strange paradox emerges: the
>things that are posited for UG, and which therefore must be in all
>languages should be the hardest for the adult to learn since he no
>longer has access to the Language Acquistion Device in which knowledge
>of UG is contained. 
****As (I think) I said earlier, there is a good deal of debate in the SLA
field as to whether, and if so to what extent and in what domains, L2
acquisition differs from L1 acquisition, and this debate finds supporters
of the idea that L1A is UG-based on either side. At the very least, it
does not go without saying that 'access' to UG disappears after childhood;
indeed, if I understand the current orthodox concept of UG, UG *couldn't*
disappear or cease to function, even in a monolingual adult. But if one
were to take an extreme non-access position, one could claim that the adult
L2 learner, while bereft of *UG-an-sich*, still has a UG-based L1 grammar,
which can be (imperfectly) applied to the L2 data. On this account, it
would not be that surprising to find fairly successful syntactic L2
acquisition. It's probably not worth while getting into particulars, but
in any case, there's no reason to think that a claim of UG-based L1
acquisition entails the non-availability of UG in L2acq.

> Let's try another theory: Language learning at any stage has both a
>biological and an environmental (or cultural) basis. 
****But stated this broadly, no one--certainly no generativist--would
reject this theory. It's what happens when one gets down to cases that

>As I see it there are two competing theories at issue: 1) The ability to
>learn grammar is prior knowledge of grammar-- which would include things
>like parasitic gaps. It seems clear to me that this is what Chomsky is
>saying. 2) The ability to learn grammar is ontologically something quite
>different from grammar, in the same way that the ability to learn
>anything is different from what is learned. This is the position I

***I'm sorry, but I don't understand these claims, or how they differ from
each other. I don't think Chomsky would deny (2), for instance; but then
he's always distinguished grammatical knowledge from ability, to learn the
grammar or to use it. 

Kevin R. Gregg
Momoyama Gakuin University
(St. Andrew's University)
1-1 Manabino, Izumi
Osaka 594-1198 Japan 0725-54-3131 (ext. 3622)
fax. 0725-54-3202
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Message 2: Re: 11.2113, Disc: Review Green

Date: Tue, 3 Oct 2000 23:41:13 -0400
From: Ronald Sheen <Ronald_SheenUQTR.UQuebec.CA>
Subject: Re: 11.2113, Disc: Review Green

Jose Luis Guijarro inquires about the Canadian Immersion Programmms.

This was initially trumpeted as a resounding success (Lapkin & Swain,
1983). However, Hector Hammerley published in 1989 "French Immersion:
Myth and Reality". reporting on the poor quality in productiion
ability. This resulted in his debating V. Collier in issues of Studes
in Second Language Acquisition (I can't remember the dates but have
the articles somewhere in case anyone is interested). In fact, Spilka
(1976), Adiv (1980), and Pawley (1985) reported similarly on the
marked difference between receptive ability (pretty good) and accurate
productive ability (pretty poor).

To be fair to Swain, she, in Harley & Swain (1984), pointed out this same
difference in the two abilities. However, this caveat tended to be lost in
the enthusiasm for immersion programmes.

That difference has now resulted in such programmes including a grammatical
instructional component.

Details of refs provided on request.

Ron Sheen U of Quebec in Trois Rivieres, Canada.
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