LINGUIST List 21.3387

Tue Aug 24 2010

Review: Applied Linguistics; Psycholinguistics

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        1.    Isabelle Lemee, EUROSLA Yearbook 2009

Message 1: EUROSLA Yearbook 2009
Date: 24-Aug-2010
From: Isabelle Lemee <>
Subject: EUROSLA Yearbook 2009
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EDITORS: Leah Roberts, Daniel Véronique, Anna Nilsson, and Marion Tellier TITLE: EUROSLA Yearbook SUBTITLE: Volume 9 (2009) PUBLISHER: John Benjamins YEAR: 2009

Isabelle Lemée, French Department, St Patrick's College, Drumcondra, Ireland


Volume 9 of the EUROSLA Yearbook contains 11 papers selected from two EUROSLA conferences, organised in 2007 and 2008 in Newcastle and Aix-en-Provence, respectively. There are four very clear sections in this volume and I will summarize them in that format.

Section 1: L2 acquisition from the perspective of morphology and syntax

The volume opens with a contribution by Rosi on the current debate on the acquisition of the aspectual system, a topic with a fruitful tradition in L2 acquisition research. She compares the acquisition patterns observed in German and Spanish L2 learners of Italian to those obtained by connectionist models recently employed in acquisitional studies, i.e Self- Organising Maps or SOMs (Kohonen 2001). These SOMs test the influence of the statistical distribution of the input in the acquisition of Italian L2. Rosi found evidence of the effect of statistical distribution of the input data of the learning process and its gradual decrease during acquisition of an L2 in parallel with the increasing exposure to L2 input. Her article, entitled ''Connectionist modelling of the development of Aspect in Italian L2,'' also confirms that the role of Actionality and Grounding maybe more important than other features of the predicate in the acquisition of aspect. She also discusses the distribution of both aspect markers across stages, the prior emergence of perfective then imperfective markers, as well as the slow development of L2 aspect when it diverges from that of the L1 system.

Jaensch and Sarko test the ''Fluctuation Hypothesis in article choice in English and German'' based on data from Syrian Arabic and Japanese native speakers. The hypothesis proposes that learners will fail to acquire uninterpretable features, if these are not present in their L1. The article examines the suppliance of articles by these two groups of learners. The authors argue that the differing L2s of these learners should be irrelevant for the Fluctuation Hypothesis, as both German and English mark their articles for definiteness in the same manner, and given the L1s under observation, they can make specific predictions in relation to this hypothesis. Arabic, but not Japanese, marks definiteness, and both languages do not mark for indefiniteness. The study shows that the Fluctuation Hypothesis cannot account for the selections made by the Japanese group, who show little difference between specific and non-specific readings (both in definite and indefinite contexts). Furthermore, the authors show that is it the presence of a relative clause modifier that forces the Arabic speakers to make inappropriate selections in indefinite contexts, rather than them exhibiting a fluctuation effect. For both learner groups, the feature-based proposal can account for variation in learners' production without the necessity to appeal to a construction-specific parameter such as the Article Choice Parameter or to a fluctuation effect which is specific to non-native language acquisition. The Article Choice Parameter has been proposed by Ionin and colleagues (2004) and suggests that native speakers of article-less languages may fluctuate between selecting articles based on definiteness and selecting them based on specificity.

In ''How is inflectional morphology learned?'' Slabakova probes further into possible sources of morphological variability in second language comprehension, as captured by the choice of agreement endings in context, in English-German interlanguage. The ability to supply missing subjects by beginning and intermediate English learners of German L2 was tested. The findings seem to support the Morphological Under-Specification Hypothesis (McCarthy 2007) which states that morphological variation come from representational deficits and the Combinational Variability Hypothesis (Adger 2006), which explains intra-personal morphosyntactic variation as arising from the combinational mechanisms of language itself (p. 59).

Frenck-Mestre, Foucart, Carrasco, and Herschensohn examine Event Related Potential responses to gender discord in L2 French. The current literature leaves open the role of the properties of the learners' native language in their capacity to acquire the syntactic reflex of gender agreement. The study focuses on three groups of adult L2 learners -- native Spanish, German and English speakers -- and compare them to native French speakers with respect to L1/L2 similarities in the processing of grammatical gender as a function of language background, and secondly to the presence/absence of overt phonetic cues. The authors present evidence that suggests that the native language may influence the acquisition and processing of grammatical features in a late-acquired language, while showing that acquisition is clearly not limited to those features present in the L1, nor is it limited by the age of the learner. Furthermore, they show that salient phonetic cues can enhance the online processing of agreement and, arguably, the grammaticalization of these rules.

Section 2: L2 acquisition from a psycholinguistic perspective

In ''Morphological dissociations in the L2 acquisition,'' Agathopoulou and Despina contribute to the debate concerning the representations of inflectional morphology by investigating (ir)regular past perfective forms in L2 (and L1) Greek. The main question raised is whether or not the Dual Mechanism Model devised by Pinker (1991, 1999) holds in the adult non-native acquisition of the Greek past perfective. This model states that irregular words are stored in the mental lexicon, while regular ones are computed by a symbolic rule, like for example in the case of U-shaped progression. The results indicate a robust discrepancy in the acquisition of regular vs irregular inflected words both in the native and non-native data. Their findings support computation for regulars as proposed by Pinker's model both in native and non-native language acquisition. However the model's claim for full storage of all irregular words is not verified.

''La lecture des mots translinguistiques en français L3'' is an investigation by Nilsson of lexical processing by seven Swedish learners of French L3. Her results show that the L1 is dominant in the learner's lexical processing, irrespectively of the type of stimulus. The connections between the concepts and L2 forms are weaker than those of the L1. This particularly complex study show that the activations of French or ''trans-linguistic'' words (p. 155) allows for a more important activation of other words which have similar lexical patterns.

Skrzypek's study sets out to fill a research gap with respect to the relationship between phonological short-term memory (PSTM) as indexed by serial non-word recall and serial non-word recognition, and the learning of collocations. It is based on data from 104 Polish adult L2 learners of English. The author identifies a significant link between the development of L2 collocational competence and PSTM, as indexed by serial non-word recall, at both beginning and lower intermediate level. In the case of elementary learners, the serial non-word recall recognition scores were significantly linked with the vocabulary levels change and the progress vocabulary scores.

Bartning, Forsberg and Hancock raise the question of whether or not it is possible for L2 learners to reach native-like levels in L2. The aim of ''Resources and obstacles in very advanced L2 French'' is to test various measures of late features in spoken L2 French. They study formulaic language, information structure, and morpho-syntax in order to discern and characterize more advanced developmental stages beyond the existing 6 established by Bartning and Schlyter (2004), i.e. 1) initial stage; 2) post-initial stage; 3) intermediate stage; 4) advanced stage, low level; 5) advanced stage, medium level; 6) advanced stage, higher level. The authors, by comparing very advanced learners to natives and less advanced speakers, found that morpho-syntactic deviances were still very much present in the speech of very advanced learners. They conclude with the proposal of a transitional stage with L2 users seen as ''functional bilinguals'' (p. 207); this would constitute a stage between the advanced learners and the near-native speaker.

Section 3: L2 acquisition at highly advanced levels

In '' On L1 attrition and the linguistic system,'' Schmid compares near-native L2 speakers to L1 attriters, i.e. speakers who emigrated at an age above 12 and who have become dominant in their L2. This study sheds light on the question of whether there is a qualitative or merely a quantitative difference between L1 acquisition in childhood and L2 acquisition later in life. Results suggest that performance in L1 attrition may sometimes diverge from the native norm due to the competition with L2 and similarities between the two linguistic systems. Schmid concludes that compared to L1 attriters, L2 speakers may not have the knowledge and processing strategies of native speakers, but with increasing practice and proficiency in the L2, they may be able to control language output.

In ''Age effects on self-perceived communicative competence and language choice among adult multilinguals,'' Dewaele looks at the effects of age of acquisition on self-perceived communicative competence and language choice for cognitive operations and emotional communication of adult bi- and multilinguals. The study is based on self-reports from 1,579 adult bi- and multilinguals from all over the world. The results suggest that age of acquisition is an important independent variable in the later use of a foreign language. For instance, a significant age of acquisition effect was found for self-perceived communication competence across L2, L3 and L4, with younger starters scoring higher; or for the use of L2 and L3 to express feelings, with younger starters using the L2 and L3 more frequently, too.

Section 4: L2 acquisition and study abroad

Pérez-Vidal and Juan-Garau are focusing on the effect of Study Abroad (SA) on written performance of advanced-level Catalan/Spanish English as a Foreign Language (EFL) undergraduate students in their paper ''The effect of Study Abroad (SA) on written performance.'' The goal of the study is to increase the existing study abroad and formal instruction research by reporting on the longitudinal development of writing by EFL learners in those two contexts over four data collection times in three academic years. The results show that the stay abroad period does result in significant progress in written fluency and lexical complexity and likewise in considerable improvement especially in accuracy but also in grammatical complexity. The authors conclude by saying that ''SA good language learners'' (p. 291) actively practice their listening, reading and writing skills, in addition to working and interacting with people.


This well-edited volume contains very insightful articles on second language research conducted in Europe. The selection of studies offers a wide range of very useful sources. I particularly liked the progression in the presentation of the studies. The volume moves from a discussion of L2 acquisition from the perspective of morphology and syntax, onto L2 acquisition from a psycholinguistic perspective, then to L2 acquisition at highly advanced levels, and finishes with L2 acquisition and study abroad themes. The articles presented in this volume all reveal a high standard of methodology and are usually well-structured. The majority are very well supported by precise examples, and have a well-developed research plan. The theoretical perspectives adopted are wide-ranging and may fall within traditions overlooked elsewhere. Graduate students, researchers, and teachers of second language will benefit strongly from this collection of empirically based accounts of multi-lingual and cross-cultural studies. As the editors underline it in their introduction, the work presented in this volume also demonstrates sophisticated awareness of scholarly insights from around the world. This volume is generally well presented and very pleasant to read.


Adger, D. (2006). Combinatorial variability. Journal of Linguistics, 42: 503-530.

Bartning, I. and S. Schlyter. (2004). Itinéraires acquisitionnels et stades de développement, Journal of French Language Studies, 14: 281-299.

Ionin, T., H. Ko and K. Wexler, K. (2004). Article semantics in L2-acquisition: The role of specificity, Language Acquisition, 12 (1): 3-69.

Kohoren, T. (2001). Self-Organising Maps, 3rd Ed. Berlin: Springer.

McCarthy, C. (2007). Morphological Variability in Second Language Spanish. PhD Dissertation, McGill University.

Pinker, S. (1991). Rules of Language. Science, 253: 530-535.

Pinker, S. (1999). Words and Rules: The Ingredients of Language. New York: Basic Books.


Dr. Isabelle Lemée is currently lecturing in the Department of French in St. Patrick's College, Drumcondra, Dublin 9, Ireland, where she teaches linguistics, second language acquisition, and sociolinguistics. Her research interest is in second language acquisition, specifically the impact of different contexts of learning (home instruction, immersion, study abroad) on the development of language acquisition. She is also very much interested in Canadian studies, in particular in the comparison of students learning a language in immersion programs in Canada and students from Europe going on a study abroad experience.

Page Updated: 24-Aug-2010