LINGUIST List 16.1516|
Thu May 12 2005
Review: Second Lang Acquisition: Foster-Cohen et al (2004)
Editor for this issue: Naomi Ogasawara
What follows is a review or discussion note contributed to our Book Discussion Forum. We expect discussions to be informal and interactive; and the author of the book discussed is cordially invited to join in. If you are interested in leading a book discussion, look for books announced on LINGUIST as "available for review." Then contact Sheila Dooley at collberglinguistlist.org.
EUROSLA Yearbook: Volume 4 (2004)
Message 1: EUROSLA Yearbook: Volume 4 (2004)
From: Ernani Garrão Neto <egarraoism.com.br>
Subject: EUROSLA Yearbook: Volume 4 (2004)
EDITORS: Foster-Cohen, Susan; Smith, Michael Sharwood; Sorace, Antonella;
TITLE: EUROSLA Yearbook 2004
SUBTITLE: Annual Conference of the European Second Language Association
SERIES: EUROSLA Yearbook 4
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins Publishing Company
Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/15/15-2777.html
Ernani Machado Garrão Neto, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.
SUMMARY OF THE BOOK
The EUROSLA Yearbook presents a selection of 10 papers from the annual
conference of European Second Language Association. It is a useful series
that combines some important researches on a diversity of fields of modern
linguistic theory. Volume 4 is mainly focused on *optionality*, for it is
the major topic discussed in the selected articles as a whole. The
organizers seem to have had the intention to assemble papers tackling
current issues on different linguistic domains, such as semantics,
pragmatics, syntax, morphology and lexicon, involving a wide variety of
languages. This is a good start, since it allows the linguistics community
to have a clearer understanding about second language acquisition process.
The next section of this review provides a description and commentary on
each of the ten papers in this volume.
1. The article "Why do L2 learners optionally choose a certain divergent
analysis of TL over a TL-like one?", written by Masahiro Hara and Chun-Hua
Ma, investigates the acquisition of one type of Japanese passive by
English and Chinese native speakers via grammaticality judgments. The
results indicate that the more fluent is a speaker, the lower are the
probabilities of misjudgment for an ungrammatical construction in
interlanguage (IL) grammar.
According to this paper, optionality reflected by grammaticality judgments
is subordinated to IL lexicon, once it comprehends "functional features
from L1 and feature values copied to IL lexicon at its creation" (p. 9).
These L1 features would be available, even in most advanced stages of L2
acquisition and they may be selected while L2 sentences are being formed.
In this case, it could generate an ungrammatical sentence, considering the
differences and similarities found in both L1 and L2 grammars. Therefore,
one could say that what the author is claiming is that optionality is a
result from the selection of different lexical items from IL lexicon.
This paper's organization is excellent, though it contains an incomplete
abstract and a very short introduction. The author does not anticipate the
reasons for the divergent analysis, although from the title we may infer
he would do so right from the beginning. On the other hand, it presents
supporting ideas for the hypothesis involving optionality results and
motivations in L2 acquisition. The implemented methodology was
satisfactory, in spite the fact that it lacks data from L2 beginners as
well as oral linguistic production, two sorts of data which could strongly
contribute to the study results.
The final discussion is interesting and the conclusion presents relevant
ideas regarding the main topic discussed through the study. Nevertheless,
the author chose to consider the framework of Full Transfer Full Access
Hypothesis, which I believe is a big mistake, once the data collected are
insufficient to prove Schwartz (1998) hypothesis.
2. The article "Meaning, proficiency and error types: variation in
nonnative acquisition of unaccusative verbs", by Ayako Deguchi and
Hiroyuki Oshita, investigates the acquisition of English intransitive
verbs by Japanese speakers from 4 different proficiency levels. The
research is based on grammaticality judgments. The subjects were presented
6 different unaccusative verbs from 3 different semantic types and 2
unergative in active and passive sentences. The results revealed that in
earlier stages of acquisition the speakers would not make the necessary
distinction between unergative and unaccusative verbs. The more fluent the
speakers would get the more they were able to recognize the semantics and
syntactic differences involving those types of intransitive verbs.
This study tries to combine the Unaccusative Trap Hypothesis and the
Unaccusative Hierarchy Hypothesis, both based on non-native acquisition of
unaccusative verbs. According to the author, it would be necessary to
refine the Unaccusative Trap Hypothesis in order to clarify the real stage
of L2 grammar development in which the non-target phenomenon would appear
or disappear. However, he does not indicate by no means how it takes
place, nor what are the basis for the hypothesis refinement.
The paper has a good introduction with a great number of references
related to the optionality phenomenon. The methodology is well developed
though it completely disregards real data from oral production, which
could undermine the hypothesis tested. I also believe that the research
could have been focused on a more balanced distribution of subjects, based
on proficiency levels. Despite these methodology issues, there is clearly
a contribution to a higher comprehension of the L2 acquisition process,
with a great emphasis on the importance of L2 lexicon.
3. In the article "Syntactic and interface knowledge in advanced and near-
native interlanguage grammars", Holger Hopp focuses on the acquisition of
German by English and Japanese native speakers. All subjects considered
were advanced speakers of German. The paper studies the constraints found
in word order optionality in L2 German grammar, which reveals the
existence of non-target phenomenon (L1 transfer) even at later stages of
SLA process. The results did not confirm the effects of critical period in
SLA by adults since, according to the author, they fail to show the
existence of representational deficits.
This paper's abstract is a bit puzzling, though it presents a reasonable
overview of the main topics mentioned during the text. The work as a whole
has a perfect organization and a great assortment of references. The
concluding remarks appear to be, indeed, the logic result obtained by an
extensive practical investigation.
4. The article "Subject inversion in L2 Italian", by Adriana Belletti and
Chiara Leonini, tests the acquisition of word order (VS) and null subject
phenomena in Italian as a second language. The results revealed the VS
order was not properly acquired, though null subjects were more often
correctly used. From the introduction the reader cannot clearly grasp the
German, the mother tongue of most adults from the observed group, does not
allow null subjects nor VS order. The paper's big question is, therefore,
why it seems to be easier to learners to recognize and use null subjects
but not the VS order. The study speculates about the existence of
pragmatics motivation for that reason, but I believe there are some other
issues to be further considered, still related to possible syntactic
motivations. The study of Null Subject Parameter associated properties
(Chomsky, 1995) and the way those properties are recognized (if they are)
might be important to better understand the phenomenon observed in this
I believe there is also a methodological problem: the author has put
together many subjects from different L1s, which might have misled the
results. It would be necessary to comment all the referred L1s´ null
The article has a very good theoretical background and the results
obtained were well clearly presented.
5. The paper "Ultimate attainment of L2 inflection: effects of L1 prosodic
structure", by Heather Goad and Lydia White, introduces the Prosodic
Transfer Hypothesis (PTH), responsible for an asymmetry in L2 oral
production. According to these authors, whenever L2 prosodic structures
cannot be built based on L1's, the L2 functional material will be deleted,
for "every construction produced by the syntax must have a corresponding
phonological representation" (p. 140). This phenomenon leads acquirers to
produce non-target-like sentences, as a result from the L1 and L2 prosodic
mismatch. In order to investigate this phonological constraint, the
authors studied the acquisition of English by a Turkish native speaker
considered to have a high proficiency level.
Even though it is based on a longitudinal analysis of only one subject
(case study), the paper is extremely well written and has a solid
theoretical framework. I do believe, however, that the results would be
more reliable if the study was supported by more robust data.
Nevertheless, the research combines some relevant methods in a linguistic
investigation, namely, grammaticality tests, interviews, and the
production of written tasks. I understand that the combination of these
methods did contribute to the important results reported in this work.
The conclusions need further investigation, as the very authors
acknowledge. It sure is an important step to our comprehension of the
mechanisms involved in acquisition of L2 morphological categories,
including possible explanations for production of non-target-like
6. The article "Morphological variation in early adult second language
French: a cross-sectional study", by Philippe Prévost, presents a very
complete study based on the acquisition of L2 French by a group of English
native speakers. They were classified into 4 different groups based on
their proficiency, which ranged from beginning to high-intermediate
levels. The aim of this work was to investigate the nature of root
infinitives produced by these subjects. The author concluded that root
infinitives appear in contexts where functional categories are required.
Therefore, in order to recognize and use the RIs as expected in target-
like sentences, the speaker must be familiar with L2 inflectional
The author did a great research, based on strong evidence obtained through
an extensive and complete methodology framework. The results seem to be
consistent as a consequence of a very solid investigation supported by
reliable data and substantial bibliographical review.
7. The paper "Monopolizing future: how the go future breaks into will's
territory and what it tells us about SLA", by Kathleen Bardovi-Harlig,
investigates the emergence of going to in the speech of 16 learners of
English as a second language. According to the author assumptions, the use
of going to, expressing future time reference, instead of dominant form
will is due to a clear form-meaning association. The results indicate that
although will territory could be jeopardized by going to, the latter
usually fails breaking into the domain of future expression.
Thanks to its great theoretical review and to its solid discussions on the
proposed issues, this paper stands out as one of the most relevant studies
in this yearbook compilation. The author managed to unfold the proposed
discussion through clear and substantial ideas. It was a longitudinal
study, based on reliable data, collected from oral and written texts,
though the author apparently disregarded subjects' mother tongues and
their possible influence on building interlanguage grammar.
8. The paper "Interaction of L1 and L2 systems at the level of grammatical
encoding: evidence from picture naming", by Denisa Bordag, investigates
the acquisition of L2 grammatical gender. The author focused on the
ability to identify gender of target language names by German learners of
Czech and Czech learners of German. The subjects underwent an experiment,
according to which they were presented pictures they had to name in their
target language (German). This procedure would allow the experimenter to
check the way they recognize gender properties in L2 grammar. The author
claims that "if the gender of an L1 noun differs from that of its L2
translation equivalent, their lemmas compete for selection", which may
lead to a slower pattern in L2 naming process, due to L1 gender
This is a very interesting work, based on most recent psycholinguistics
theories. The author did an excellent research, based on a picture naming
experiment. The paper distribution is also distinctive. The tone is set in
the comprehensive abstract and in the great introduction. The main topics
reveal amazing details related to time-processing and L1 transfer, and I
believe it is an expected result from the nature of the experiment.
9. The paper "Tense/aspect, verb meaning and perception of intensity by
native and non-native of English", by Jean-Marc Dewaele and Malcolm
Edwards, compares the perception of emotional intensity by native and non-
native English speakers. The research is based on written questionnaires
used in order to check subjects perception of English verb semantics,
tense and aspect forms.
The results indicate that second language speakers of English usually take
more time to develop a precise perception of emotional intensity related
to non-temporal markers, due to the lack of a solid development of
The authors did a complete survey about the subjects' sociolinguistics
background, which came to me as a good surprise. In fact, most articles in
this yearbook carried out a corpus-based research involving different
subjects with different sociolinguistics background, though they did not
consider undertaking such a survey. I believe this socio-bibliographical
information helps researcher to more reliably interpret the results from
Regarding the research results, we could say that it sheds light into a
very important area of second language acquisition field, which is the
acquisition of pragmatics. This study also interestingly contributes for
the teaching field of 2nd language pragmatic competence.
10. The article "May you speak louder maybe?", written by Gila A. Schauer,
is a longitudinal study with German native speakers learning English as a
second language in a British university. The aim of this project was to
check the acquisition of pragmatic patterns. For that purpose, the author
investigates acquirers from three different stages of acquisition.
As the author says in the concluding remarks, this paper has some
limitations related to the nature of collected data. Once again I believe
that individual interviews could help finding out speakers' pragmatics
comprehension in real use conditions. Therefore I suppose it might have
been useful if the author recorded subjects' informal speeches.
On the other hand, this paper makes a relevant contribution to a greater
understanding about the usage of general and individual rules and
strategies found in interlanguage pragmatics.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Ernani Garrão Neto is a linguistics researcher at the Federal University
of Rio de Janeiro, who is concluding his PhD thesis on the L2 acquisition
of null subjects. He is focusing on adult English native speakers learning
Brazilian Portuguese as a second language. He has recently returned from
Lisbon, Portugal, where he collected data for means of comparison to his
findings in Brazilian Portuguese. He is particularly interested in SLA,
Language Processing, Psycholinguistics, and Variation and Change Theory.
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