LINGUIST List 15.1862

Sat Jun 19 2004

Review: Lang Acquistion: Foster-Cohen & Peharek Doehler

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  1. Dalila Ayoun, EuroSLA Yearbook, vol. 3, 2003

Message 1: EuroSLA Yearbook, vol. 3, 2003

Date: Sat, 19 Jun 2004 14:22:11 -0400 (EDT)
From: Dalila Ayoun <>
Subject: EuroSLA Yearbook, vol. 3, 2003

Lang Acquistion: Foster-Cohen & Peharek Doehler (2004)

EDITORS: Foster-Cohen, Susan; Peharek Doehler, Simona
TITLE: EuroSLA Yearbook, Volume3
PUBLISHER: Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2004
Announced at

Dalila Ayoun, Department of French & Italian, University of Arizona

This volume includes seven papers (out of twelve initially submitted)
and the three plenaries given at the EuroSLA conference that took
place in Basel in 2002. The volume starts with a brief introduction by
the editors, which describes the background of the volume, and gives a
short summary of each paper.

Yoichi Miyamoto and Yuka Iijima ('On the existence of scrambling in
the grammar of Japanese elementary EFL learners', pp. 7-27)
administered a grammaticality judgment task to Japanese elementary
(n=65) and intermediate (n=56) learners of English as a foreign
language (as well as two native speaker controls) to test their
interpretation of wh-phrases focusing on specificity effects. The 50
stimuli included short-distance subjects and objects, long-distance
subjects and objects, and how many in-situ type sentences, as well as
two sentences exemplifying island effects and eight sentences
illustrating temporal adverbial phrases. Based on results showing that
Subject Condition effects are absent from the participants' grammar,
the authors contend that wh-movement is actually scrambling in the
grammar of the elementary learners, whereas the grammar of the
intermediate learners allows 'real' wh-movement with respect to
specificity and island effects. It is also argued that the elementary
learners who do not allow wh-phrases in-situ use an obligatory
stylistic wh-fronting rule instead. Lastly, based on the theoretical
assumption that wh-phrases consist of a quantificational feature in
addition to a wh-feature, it is speculated that the Fquant Asborption
parameter (Watanabe, 2000) has not yet been reset to the target value.

Myoto Iko ('The interpretation of pronouns by Japanese learners of
English', pp. 29-56) investigated the interpretation of pronoun
reference by adult Japanese learners of English (n=58), compared
with English (n=14) and Japanese native controls (n=40). The
stimuli of a truth value judgment task included simple and complex
sentences with quantified and referential antecedents. The author set
out to find out whether L2 adult learners experienced the same
difficulties as children do in first language (L1) acquisition, as
well as whether Japanese learners of English as a second language (L2)
faced a poverty of the stimulus problem. After outlining the
differences between English and Japanese pronouns, Iko briefly reviews
the findings in child L1 acquisition and adult L2 acquisition, which
appear to be inconclusive (e.g., White, 1998). The present results
indicate that adult L2 learners perform similarly to L1 child learners
(i.e., they are much better at accepting grammatical antecedents than
at rejecting ungrammatical antecedents) contra White (1998). It also
appears that adult L2 learners can use the syntactic knowledge of the
binding Principle B and the [+R] lexical feature of pronouns, but not
the pragmatic knowledge of the Rule I.

The paper by Elena Gavruseva ('L2 root infinitives uprooted and
revisited', pp. 57-75) analyses the root infinitives (non-finite
predicates) found in the longitudinal data (spontaneous production) of
5 Japanese children who are learning English as an L2 to re-examine
current theoretical approaches to root infinitives (e.g., Pr�vost &
White, 2000) address three main questions: 1) Are the non-finite
predicates (found in both L1 and L2 data) utterances lacking in
syntactic tense/agreement features?; 2) How are these structures
generated?; 3) What causes the gradual decline in the use of these
root infinitives in the child's grammar? The predictions of the two
main theories of root infinitives are examined and tested with the
spontaneous L2 child production data: the Truncation Hypothesis (Rizzi
1993/94) and the Morphological Deficit Hypothesis (Haznedar &
Schwartz, 1997; Lardiere, 1998; Pr�vost & White, 2000). It is argued
that neither of these theories account for the observed developmental
trends. It is proposed that the emergence of finiteness features is
constrained by the aspectual semantics of each predicate: some English
predicates have an inherent telicity feature whereas others have to
acquire it in the aspectual projection. It is also suggested that the
initial state of children's grammars is underspecified for aspectual
features because the content of functional projections are

Marit Westergaard ('Unlearning V2. Transfer, markedness, and the
importance of input cues in the acquisition of word order in English
by Norwegian children', pp. 77-101) also investigates the L2
acquisition of English by Norwegian children (n=100) to consider to
what extent the L1 word order is transferred to the target
language. Norwegian is a verb second (V2) language whereas English is
an SVO language, generally assumed to be the basic word order allowed
by Universal Grammar (e.g, Kayne, 1995). The word orders are accounted
for by two parameters: V-to-I (aux), I-to-C (in questions) for
English; and V-to-I-to-C for Norwegian. As acknowledged by the author,
methodological flaws limit the conclusions that can be drawn from this
study. In spite of their very minimal exposure to English at the time
of the data collection, the participants were administered three
different elicitation tasks (assessment of sentence pairs,
grammaticality judgments, elicited production). The written tasks were
followed by very brief individual oral sessions with some of the
participants. The results show transfer of the V2 word order in
topicalised structures, questions and sentences with
adverbials. Lightfoot's (1999) theory of cue-based learning is
extended to L2 acquisition as an explanation for the developmental
patterns observed.

The paper by T. Nav�s, M. Rosa Torres and M. Luz Celaya ('Long term
effects of an earlier start. An analysis of Efl written production',
pp. 103-129) examines the written production of six groups of L2
English tutored learners (n=520), who are Spanish-Catalan
bilinguals, to investigate the effects of onset and age on ultimate
attainment in writing. The first group started English instruction at
age 8, while the second group started at age 11. data were collected
after 200, 416 and 726 hours of instruction. The current evidence
favors the hypothesis that older learners have an advantage over
younger learners, since the rate of acquisition increases with
age. The data presented in this paper (which are part of a larger
research project, the Barcelona Age Factor Project) seem to support
this evidence. Nav�s et al. use 39 writing measures classified into
the four aspects of language development proposed in Wolfe-Quintero et
al. (1998) (fluency, accuracy, syntactic complexity, and lexical
complexity) to analyze a 15 minute composition. The overall results
show that the learners who started later significantly outperform the
learners who started their English L2 acquisition earlier.

Rebekah Rast and Jean-Yves Dommergues ('Toward a characterization of
saliency on first exposure to a second language', pp. 131-156)
investigated what French native speakers could perceive and process of
Polish after just a few hours of instruction. Following Slobin's
(1985) Operating Principle, they assume that ''perceptually salient''
elements can be detected using a sentence repetition task. They
focused on word length, word stress, phonemic distance, transparency,
word position and frequency. Participants (n=8) were tested by
repeating 113 words in sentential context first prior to instruction,
then after 4 hours of instructions, and finally after 8 hours of
instructions. The results show a significant difference for L2
exposure, hours of instruction had an impact on performance, and the
factors listed above played a role that grew over time. Even after
such short exposure, the French native speakers relied on lexical
stress in Polish, a property that does not exist in their L1.

The next two papers focus on ultimate attainment in L2 acquisition,
investigating near-native or very advanced learners, in contrast with
the two preceding papers that chose to analyze the effects of initial
exposure to an L2.

The paper by Sonja van Boxtel, Theo Bongaerts and Peter-Arno Coppen
(Native-like attainment in L2 syntax', pp. 157-181) challenges the
prediction made by the Critical Period Hypothesis that post-puberty L2
learners cannot attain native-like proficiency. They administered an
elicited imitation task and a relative grammaticality judgment task to
German and French late learners (n=30) of Dutch. (It is part of a
larger study investigating late L2 Dutch learners with German, French
and Turkish as L1s). The participants were tested on the notoriously
difficult dummy subject constructions (constructions with semantically
empty element with the syntactic function of subject). Several methods
of statistical analyses were used on the raw data obtained from the
two tasks to establish whether the learners fell within native speaker
range or not. It appears that many L2 learners fall within the native
speaker range with some individual variation. It must be noted that
the German and French participants who performed within native speaker
range according to the strictest criteria were highly educated and had
a linguistic background. The authors conclude that their results
provide evidence against a critical period hypothesis connected to
language-specific physiological changes in the brain because it
precludes any exceptions. On the other hand, they are also compatible
with the hypothesis that there are biologically determined age effects
for the L2 acquisition of syntax.

Christiane von Stutterheim ('Linguistic structure and information
organization. The case of very advanced learners', pp. 183-206) chose
event-time structures in several languages (Algerian Arabic, English,
German, Spanish and Norwegian) to examine the difficulties that very
advanced L2 learners still have in producing a text. The data
presented here are part of a larger interdisciplinary research project
that focuses on crosslinguistic differences in information
organization. It is briefly summarized before introducing the results
of empirical studies with native speakers which used four experimental
tasks: a film retelling task, the verbalization of single events, the
analysis of speech onset times during that verbalization, and an
in-progress eye tracking study.

The results of each task are presented in detail for both the native
speakers and the advanced learners. For instance, the results of the
first task led to the conclusion that crosslinguistic difference in
text structures were due to structural differences in the languages
involved, not to cultural traditions. The overall conclusion regarding
native speaker languages is that grammaticized meanings are crucial to
principles of information organization. The general conclusion
regarding the advanced speakers is that they maintain their L1
principles in organizing and presenting written information. It is
argued that advanced learners are held back by a grammatical factor in
the sense that they need to discover grammaticized meanings and their
role in the organization of information.

The last two papers of the volume take on a broader approach L2
acquisition to consider social factors (Ulrich Dausendsch�n-Gay,
'Producing and learning to produce utterances in social interaction',
pp. 207-228), and the links between language testing and L2
acquisition research (Tim McNamara, 'Tearing us apart again. The
paradigm wars and the search for validity', pp. 229-238). More
specifically, Dausendsch�n-Gay argues for the integration of social
interaction, in particular body movements and prosody, with the
analysis of L2 data. The European Science Foundation project is one
example of an effort to include social and cultural aspects that come
into play in negotiating meaning in social interactions. The
interaction hypothesis is extended and redefined along much broader
paradigms to propose for instance LASS (language acquisition support
system) in L1 acquisition and SLASS (second language acquisition
support system) in L2 acquisition.

Finally, in exploring the links between language testing and L2
research, McNamara re-examines the familiar concepts of validity and
constructs using Skehan's (1998) model and Messick's (1989) framework
as illustrations, and shows how they unavoidably raise questions of
social and political values, in a tense climate.

This volume presents a somewhat eclectic collection of papers with
about half of the papers targeting L2 child learners and the other
half targeting L2 adult learners. It presents empirical data,
cross-sectional and longitudinal, from learners after just a few hours
of exposure to learners who perform as near-native
speakers. Theoretically, some of the papers focus on very specific,
narrow structures such as wh-movement or root infinitives while others
take a much broader approach to consider to word order and writing
proficiency. Finally, there are very varied L1 backgrounds (Japanese,
Russian, Azerbajaini, Norwegian, Spanish, French, German, Arabic and
English) while the L2 of adult or child learner is usually English
(but also Polish, Dutch, German or English). But what appears as an
eclectic collection of papers at first is actually a very rich and
interesting volume. All the papers illustrate a detailed analysis of
different linguistic phenomena from several theoretical frameworks
which may be overlooked in North-American publications. In many cases,
the individual papers are part of larger, long term research projects
with well thought-out goals, empirical and theoretical questions. In
all cases, they underlie the complexity and wealth of issues facing
researchers in both L1 and L2 acquisition.


Haznedar, B. & Schwartz, B. D. (1997) Are there optional infinitives
in child L2 acquisition? In E. Hughes et al. (eds.), Proceedings of
the BUCLD, pp. 257-268. Somerville: Cascadilla Press.

Kayne, R. (1995) The antisymmetry of syntax. Cambridge/London: MIT

Lardiere, D. (1998) Dissociating syntax from morphology in a divergent
L2 end-state grammar. Second Language Research, 14, 359-375.

Lightfoot, D. (1999) The development of language: acquisition, change
and evolution. Malden/Oxford: Blackwell.

Messick, S. (1989) Validity. In R. L. Linn (ed.), Educational
measurements (3rd Ed.), (pp. 13-103) New York: American Council on
Education and Macmillan.

Pr�vost, P. & White, L. (2000) Accounting for morphological
variation in second language acquisition: truncation or missing
inflection? In M. A.Friedemann & L. Rizzi (eds.), The acquisition of
syntax (pp. 202-235) London: Longman.

Skehan, P. (1998) A cognitive approach to language learning. Oxford:
Oxford University Press.

Slobin, D. (1985) Crosslinguistic evidence for the language-making
capacity. In D. Slobin (ed.), The crosslinguistic study of language
acquisition, Vol. II (pp. 1157-1256) Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum

Watanabe, A. (2000) Absorption: interpretability and feature strength.
In Grant-in-Aid for COE Research Report (4): Researching and verifying
an advanced theory of human language: Explanation of the human faculty
for constructing and computing sentences on the basis of lexical
conceptual features, 253-296.

White, L. (1998) Second language acquisition and binding principle B:
child/adult differences. Second Language Research, 14, 425-439.

Wolfe-Quintero, K., Inagaki, S. & Kim, H. (1998) Second language
development in writing: measures of fluency, accuracy and complexity.
Hawai'i: University of Hawai'i at Manoa.


Dalila Ayoun is an associate professor of French Linguistics and
Second Language Acquisition and Teaching at the University of Arizona
in Tucson. Her research interests center around the second language
acquisition of syntax from a generative/minimalist framework, tense
and aspect, computer-based elicitation tasks.
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