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Review of  Second Dialect Acquisition

Reviewer: Kathryn Lee Ringer-Hilfinger
Book Title: Second Dialect Acquisition
Book Author: Jeff Siegel
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Language Acquisition
Issue Number: 22.2926

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AUTHOR: Jeff Siegel
TITLE: Second Dialect Acquisition
PUBLISHER: Cambridge University Press
YEAR: 2010

Kathryn Ringer-Hilfinger, Spanish Linguistics Program, University at Albany (SUNY)

This is the first book devoted exclusively to the field of second dialect
acquisition (SDA). The author covers a range of topics aimed at a wider
audience, gathering literature from various disciplines in order to present a
clear picture of the work done on SDA up to this point and to motivate further
research. The book is divided into nine chapters. Basic information and clear
definitions are offered in the introductory chapter, making the text accessible
to both linguists and non-linguists. The remaining eight chapters can be divided
into two parts. Chapters 2 to 6 present research related to dialect acquisition
within naturalistic contexts including factors affecting use of second dialect
(D2) features and methodological concerns. Chapters 7 to 9 are concerned with
SDA in classroom contexts and research results stemming from various educational
approaches. A list of figures, tables and abbreviations is offered at the
beginning. Notes, references and index are at the end of the book.

Siegel's introductory chapter first explores the use of the word 'dialect'. The
author chooses to use a sociolinguistic definition: ''varieties of the same
language differing in vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar and that are
associated with particular geographic regions or social groups'' (2). The
position taken is that the speakers of such varieties are ultimately responsible
for determining mutual intelligibility. Next, learning a dialect is contrasted
with learning a language. SDA is introduced as a subfield of second language
acquisition (SLA), the difference being that SDA occurs when a second dialect
(D2) of the same language is being acquired. The next major section
contextualizes SDA with reference to three main dialect types, two contexts of
learning and dialect differences (vocabulary, grammar, pragmatics,
pronunciation). Clear definitions and examples are provided of each.

Chapter 2, ''Attainment in naturalistic SDA'', outlines various methodological
concerns in a SDA approach and summarizes results from eight studies on English
dialects and nine studies on dialects of languages other than English. The
criteria for inclusion of these studies were that they be ''written in English'',
offer ''data on the frequency of use of D2 features'', ''focus on acquisition of D2
features'' (not loss of D1 features) and ''distinguish between D1 and D2 variants''
(23).Thirteen of the seventeen studies reveal an increase in frequency of use of
a D2 feature, nine of which show movement toward native-like patterns of use.
Siegel estimates native-like acquisition by 13 of the subjects. The chapter also
offers examples of three studies focusing on dialect shift or loss. The last
section discusses problems concerning data quantification and analysis within a
naturalistic context.

Chapter 3, ''Acquiring a second dialect'', considers linguistic and social
phenomena involved in the study of SDA. Of main focus is the idea of ''double
foreignness'' (56). Speaker membership to a specific speech community is
presented as occurring within two possible scenarios. The first is the
perception of 'foreignness' or being perceived by D2 speakers as non-native
within the D2 community. The second scenario is the perception of 'foreignness'
that can occur when D2 acquirers return to their D1 community and are still
viewed as foreign due to their use of D2 and interdialect features. Imitation is
another possible use of the D2 although does not implicate acquisition or
linguistic proficiency (i.e. dialect imitations by actors in theatre
performances). Distinctions are made between relevant terminologies:
accommodation vs. acquisition and replacive vs. additive SDA. A synthesis of
psycholinguistic studies in bilingualism (Woutersen et al. 1994, Levelt 1989, De
Bot! 1992) lead the author to the conclusion that the D1 and D2 appear to be
stored in different areas of the brain and are therefore processed differently,
just as with L1 and L2 (3.4.4).

Chapter 4, ''Differential attainment: Age effects and linguistic factors'',
elucidates the causes and sources of variation in the degree of attainment of D2
features. Siegel begins the chapter by questioning, ''why some subjects attain
native-like usage of D2 variants while others do not […]'' and also ''why some D2
features are acquired more readily than others'' (84). The individual factor
given special attention in this chapter is age of acquisition (AoA). A table
(4.1) places the studies presented in chapter 2 in order of overall degree of
attainment showing that the youngest acquirers are most likely to acquire
native-like usage. Siegel reviews findings with regard to the significance of
AoA in SDA and the main arguments supporting the theory that native-like usage
of phonological features is very difficult after 7 years of age while for
morphological features it can occur up to 16 or 17 years of age. The linguistic
factor of focus is rule complexity. Further consideration! of studies by Wells
(1972), Payne (1976) and Chambers (1992) leads the author to surmise that AoA
has a differential effect on the acquisition of variants that involve simple
rules versus complex rules. Lastly, attention is given to how various
critical-age hypotheses traditionally debated in the field of SLA may be viewed
in terms of SDA.

Chapter 5, ''Additional individual and linguistic factors'', further explores
factors that account for differences in the degree of attainment in SDA. The
first section deals with additional individual factors beyond AoA including
length of residence, social identity, gender, degree of social interaction with
D2 speakers, motivation and attitudes, and occupation. As in previous chapters,
numerous examples are given from SDA research including those presented in
Chapter 2. The second section identifies other linguistic influences beyond
linguistic level and complexity of rules. These relate to the effects of
salience, predictability, comprehensibility, orthographically distinct variants
and word class. Siegel concludes that linguistic level and rule complexity
continue to be the most significant factors. While other factors such as degree
of salience are necessary for acquisition, they may not have a significant
effect in the presence of stronger competing constraints.

In chapter 6, ''The difficulty of SDA'', Siegel avoids debating which is more
difficult, SDA or SLA. Instead he highlights differences among learner
populations and research methodologies as well as difficulties of SDA that are
not shared by SLA. Firstly, the two differ in their starting points. Siegel
states ''L2 learners typically have no linguistic knowledge of the L2 when they
begin SLA. But D2 learners […] have to learn relatively few aspects of the D2
that differ from the D1'' (136). Also, in SLA very few studies provide
performance data on the acquisition of particular L2 features within a
naturalistic context. Another key difference for Siegel is motivation. In SDA
the motivation is to be seen as a local or to acquire a dialect used in formal
job or education situations. In SLA the motivation is usually to carry out
''intelligible communication'' (138). Next, Siegel summarizes some of the factors
researchers attribute to the difficulties of SDA such as the small distance
between the D1 and the D2, more false cognates between dialects and various
sociopsychological factors. Lastly the relevance of contact-induced language
change to new dialect formation and language change is emphasized and the need
for further research on contact-induced language change is encouraged.

Chapter 7, ''SDA in classroom contexts'', turns the reader's attention to issues
of SDA in educational contexts. The position taken throughout this chapter and
the text is that D1 learners are speakers of unstandarized varieties who seek to
learn the standardized D2. The first section offers a survey of the current
educational situations for speakers of regional dialects, colloquial varieties
in diglossic settings, ethnic dialects, indigenized varieties and creoles. The
picture presented is that most D2 learners are at a disadvantage. The next
section acquaints the reader with how SDA research is conducted in the classroom
context. Siegel was only able to find four studies in this area. The last
section describes arguments that have been made against the need for special
programs for SDA which the author blames for the ''current educational practice
of keeping them [unstandardized varieties] out of the curriculum […]'' (187).

Chapter 8, ''Educational approaches for SDA'', covers educational approaches and
programs designed to assist acquisition both inside and outside the classroom.
Dialect teaching is divided into two types: dialect coaching and classroom
teaching. Dialect coaching and accent modification are two approaches typically
designed for adult learners seeking to acquire a D2 for professional purposes
(actors, business people). Results show gains in performance and imitation
ability but not in acquisition (ability to maintain use of D2 on daily basis).
With respect to dialect teaching in the classroom, both historical context and
current approaches to SDA educational approaches are described alongside results
from studies measuring their effects in the classroom. Despite early attempts in
the 1960s and 1970s backed by sociolinguistic research there was a general
tendency to revert back to traditional methods of the standard dialect only
classroom (199). In contrast, current approaches (Instrumental, Accommodation,
Awareness) recognize local D1 varieties in the classroom and their overall
success invalidates many of the claims put forth in chapter 7 (i.e.
ghettoization, waste of time) that incorporation of the D1 into the classroom is

Chapter 9, ''Explaining the results and taking further steps'', addresses reasons
for failures and successes of the educational approaches presented in Chapter 8.
Unsuccessful outcomes of dialect coaching are attributed to the AoA as discussed
in Chapter 4 given that learners in dialect coaching and accent modification
classes are adults. Positive results in classroom contexts resulting from newer
approaches discussed in Chapter 8 are attributed to several factors that
overthrow the arguments against SDA programs (section 7.4).

To conclude, the author shares what he envisions for the field of SDA. The
awareness approach receives the most attention from the author -- he criticizes
its shortcomings but also sees in it the most potential for success. He supports
the ''critical awareness approach'' which directly confronts issues of language
ideology and power (229). His arguments are based on the ''students' right to
their own dialect and culture, while at the same time promoting the acquisition
of the second dialect needed for academic work'' (234). The few existing studies
showing effectiveness of the critical awareness approach are described and
intended to inspire future research in this area.

One of the first tasks of this book is to make a necessary comparison between
SLA and SDA. The reader should note that many of the aspects of SDA that the
author considers to be especially difficult when compared to SLA may only be
valid when SLA research is viewed from a strictly traditional viewpoint (as
taking place within a formal classroom context). Siegel mentions SLA interest in
SDA but does not discuss the more recent and productive body of naturalistic
studies emerging out of a branch of SLA called variationist sociolinguistics.
Highly interested in performance phenomena, much of this research shows that
study abroad learners living in the L2/D2 community acquire the ability to vary
their speech in native-like ways (Bayley 2005, Regan 1996, Geeslin & Gudmestad
2008). This body of research also reveals that AoA is a less crucial factor in
an adult learner’s ability to attain characteristics of a particular variety
than other factors such as personal motivation, degree of identification and
involvement with native speakers (Regan, Howard, Lemée 2009, Piller 2002). We
must consider the integrative motivations of advanced L2 learners who live for
extended periods in the target language community. L2 learners are taught a
standard dialect and a formal register in school that are different from those
they encounter in their daily lives while abroad. This involves acquiring speech
patterns that may differ significantly from those they are familiar with.

For the body of studies summarized in Chapter 2 it is important to keep in mind
that an average percentage of frequency of use of D2 variants was ''extrapolated
or calculated'' by the author since frequency of use was not always quantified in
the original study (23). Furthermore it is difficult to compare studies and form
generalizations given the inconsistency of methodologies employed among the
studies and they do not all take the same linguistic and social factors into
account such as age of acquisition and rule complexity (Chapter 4). Siegel
attempts to establish SDA as a legitimate field of study that merits the
formation of a clear set of descriptive benchmarks necessary to carrying out
statistically relevant research.

It should be noted that the body of SDA studies included is not all-inclusive.
Siegel lists his criteria for inclusion (2.1). For example, the author
recognizes that in the case of dialect shift, D2 features were acquired but
these studies were not included given that the target D2 was not clearly
distinguishable (2.5). The studies receiving more attention in this text are
those in which SDA leads to bidialectalism (additive SDA) as opposed to SDA that
leads to dialect change with respect to dialect shift or loss (replacive SA).
The clear focus on cases of D2 acquisition corresponds with the author's support
of psycholinguistic models of bidialectalism that show how two dialects may be
represented and stored separately in the brain (3.4.4). Despite the preference
for studies that clearly differentiate between the D1 and the D2, the author
acknowledges that modification of the D1 by the D2 is likely (3.3).

Siegel asserts that further steps must be taken to promote SDA in classroom
contexts. He argues for bringing the awareness approach to a new level, which
“as it currently stands,” states Siegel, “does not necessarily aim for change,
or challenge existing ideologies. However it does have the potential to do so if
it adopts a more critical orientation'' (229). The dialect awareness programs
cited by the author are directed to teachers and students, yet a significant
body of research and program development has evolved with regard to dialect
awareness programs for the public (Wolfram 2000, 2008). The text does not give
attention to the need to raise sensitivity and conscious awareness of linguistic
diversity outside the education sector.

Overall, Siegel provides us with a broad understanding of this newly emerging
field. I would highly recommend this text as a valuable tool for both
experienced researchers and non-linguists or students interested in knowing what
is involved in acquiring a different dialect of the same language, whether in a
naturalistic or classroom context. It can also be used as an introductory
reading for the field of SDA to assist understanding of more complex readings in
the field to which the author makes many references, providing the reader with
extensive bibliographic information.


Bayley, Robert. 2005. Second Language Acquisition and Sociolinguistic Variation.
Intercultural Communication Studies XIV (2).1-13.

Geeslin, Kimberly and Aarnes Gudmestad. 2008. The Acquisition of Variation in
Second-Language Spanish: An Agenda for Integrating Studies of the L2 Sound
System, unpublished paper presented at the Conference on the Acquisition of
Spanish and Portuguese as a Second Language'', Minneapolis, MN.

Piller, Ingrid. 2002. Passing for a native speaker: Identity and success in
second language learning. Journal of Sociolinguistics (6)2.179-206.

Regan, Vera. 1996. Variation in French interlanguage: A longitudinal study of
sociolinguistic competence. In Robert Bayley and Dennis Preston (eds.), Second
Language Acquisition and Linguistic Variation, 177-201. Amsterdam/Philadelphia:

Regan, Vera, Martin Howard and Isabel Lemée. 2009. The acquisition of
sociolinguistic competence in a study abroad context. Buffalo: Multilingual Matters.

Wolfram, Walt. 2000. Linguistic diversity and the Public Interest. American
Speech. 75(3).278-280.

Wolfram, Walt. 2008. Operationalizing linguistic gratuity: From principle to
practice. Language and Linguistic Compass 2(6).1109-1134.

Kathryn Ringer-Hilfinger is a PhD student in Spanish Linguistics at the University at Albany (SUNY). She is currently conducting research on the acquisition of sociolinguistic variation by advanced second language learners of Spanish in an immersion context.

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