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Review of  Contemporary Perspectives on the Acquisition of Spanish

Reviewer: H Stephen Straight
Book Title: Contemporary Perspectives on the Acquisition of Spanish
Book Author: Ana Teresa PĂ©rez-Leroux William R. Glass
Publisher: Cascadilla Press
Linguistic Field(s): Psycholinguistics
Subject Language(s): Spanish
Issue Number: 9.646

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Ana Teresa PEREZ-LEROUX and William R GLASS, editors. 1997.
_Contemporary perspectives on the acquisition of Spanish_. Volume 1:
Developing Grammars edited by Perez-Leroux and Glass, 217+xi pp (ISBN
1-57473-016-9); Volume 2: Production, Processing, and Comprehension
edited by Glass and Perez-Leroux, 166+xi pp (ISBN 1-57473-017-7).
Cascadilla Press, Somerville, MA. (set: ISBN 1-57473-015-0)
LC: PC4074.85.C66 1997.

Reviewed by H. Stephen Straight, <[email protected]>

This two-volume work contains nineteen papers (seventeen in English,
two in Spanish) by an international set of 31 authors (including eighteen
at US universities and five each at universities in Spain & Canada),
ranging in length from fifteen to 34 pages. They comprise revised
versions of papers delivered at a conference held at Pennsylvania State
University in October 1995. With separate sections on Child and Adult
Language Acquisition (5 papers each) and on Second Language Production (5
papers) and Comprehension and Input Processing (4 papers), this work
provides exactly the current and wide-ranging overview of issues suggested
by its title. Prominent senior scholars (such as James P Lantolf, James F
Lee, Juana Liceras, Susana Lopez-Ornat, Barbara Lust, and Bill VanPatten)
lend the work a rightful air of authority, while numerous junior
contributors (including a dozen PhD candidates) provide a welcome promise
of more good work to come.

Highlights include Lopez-Ornat's fascinating case study of the role
of Spanish-specific morphological patterning in L1 emergence of nominal
and verbal forms and functions (1:3-20), Virginia C Mueller Gathercole &
Cecilia Montes's paradigm-challenging study of the emergence in bi- and
monolingual children of grammaticality judgments regarding the opposing
que/*that complementizer patterns in wh-extracted embedded clauses
(1:75-95), Christina Sanz's finely nuanced account of the changing role of
controlled versus automatized processes in L2 production as a function of
performance task variables (2:41-56), Jeffrey Reeder's remarkable findings
regarding the dissociation of phonetic perceptual skill and pronunciation
accuracy in both beginning and advanced second language learners
(2:77-90), and Bill VanPatten's authoritative overview of his
path-breaking research on input processing in second language learning and
teaching (2:93-108).

Specialist readers will appreciate the currency, range, and depth of
the studies presented here. They will also appreciate their overall
quality, rare in a collection of conference papers. Both volumes contain
a comprehensive index of mentioned authors and topics, while notes and
full lists of references appear as they should at the end of each paper.
Advanced students will find the expositions quite uniformly accessible and
clear, and the findings well presented and thoroughly discussed. The
editors and anonymous reviewers did their jobs well.

Non-specialist readers will however find these volumes rather heavy
going. Although all of the papers successfully avoid jargon-mongering,
even papers with enticing titles like "The Function of Language Play in
the Acquisition of L2 Spanish" (James P Lantolf, 2:3-24) contain
theoretical discussion of great erudition and the analysis of empirical
data of considerable complexity. (Lantolf's 75-item list of references
includes works by Vera John-Steiner, Alexei Leontiev, David Olson, Lev
Vygotsky, and other important authors usually neglected in L2 research.)

Although few readers will find all of the papers of interest, every
paper makes a contribution to our understanding of its topic, and taken
together these volumes contain something worth the close attention of
every conceivable reader in linguistics, developmental and experimental
psycholinguistics, and second language theory and pedagogy.

Given the longstanding facts of 1) the prominence of Spanish as a
national language in the New World, 2) the preeminence of Spanish as the
first language of bilinguals in the US, and 3) the ubiquity (and, more
recently, the predominance) of Spanish and English as the languages
studied in schools and colleges throughout the Americas, Spanish language
acquisition and Spanish-English child and adult bilingualism ought to be
among the most common and well-supported areas of basic and applied
psycholinguistic research. Without going into the cultural, economic, and
political factors that have held back such research, and that have pushed
the study of Spanish-English bilingualism almost entirely into the
politically charged domain of (mostly Spanish-subtractive) "bilingual
education", we can be grateful to P&G for bringing together an impressive
array of high-quality studies that should stimulate many to pay more
attention to these widely available sources of data on critical issues in
L1 and L2 acquisition theory and in the psycholinguistics (as opposed to
the sociolinguistics) of bilingualism.
H Stephen Straight (PhD Chicago 1972), professor of anthropology and of
linguistics, directs the programs in linguistics and in languages across
the curriculum at Binghamton University (SUNY), where he has taught since
1970. His research includes study of Yucatec Maya L1 acquisition,
comparative sociolinguistics, translation theory, L2 pedagogy,
multilingual education, and the role of the reception-expression dialectic
in models of language and cognitive processes.