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Second language acquisition: Theoretical and experimental issues in contemporary research

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      To what extent, if any, does Universal Grammar (UG) constrain second language (L2) acquisition? This is not only an empirical question, but one which is currently investigable. In this context, L2 acquisition is emerging as an important new domain of psycholinguistic research. Three logical possibilities have been articulated regarding the role of UG in L2 acquisition: The first is the “no access” hypothesis that claims that no aspect of UG is available to the L2 learner. The second is the “partial access” hypothesis that claims that only LI instantiated principles and LI instantiated parameter-values of UG are available to the learner. The third, called the “full access” hypothesis, asserts that UG in its entirety constrains L2 acquisition.

      In this paper we argue that there is no compelling evidence to support either of the first two hypotheses. Moreover, we provide evidence concerning functional categories in L2 acquisition consistent with the claim that UG is fully available to the L2 learner (see also Flynn 1987; Li 1993; Martohardjono 1992; Schwartz & Sprouse 1991; Thomas 1991; White 1989). In addition, we will attempt to clarify some of currently unclear theoretical issues that arise with respect to positing UG as an explanatory theory of L2 acquisition. We will also investigate in some detail certain crucial methodological questions involved in experimentally testing the role of UG in L2 acquisition and finally, we will present a set of experimental results of our own supporting the “Full Access” hypothesis.

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          Critical period effects in second language learning: The influence of maturational state on the acquisition of English as a second language


            Author and article information

            Behavioral and Brain Sciences
            Behav Brain Sci
            Cambridge University Press (CUP)
            December 1996
            February 2010
            : 19
            : 04
            : 677-714
            © 1996


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