Second Language Acquisition and the Critical Period Hypothesis

By David Birdsong | Go to book overview
Save to active project

CHAPTER SIX
Ultimate Attainment in L2 Pronunciation: The Case of Very Advanced Late L2 Learners

Theo Bongaerts University of Nijmegen, The Netherlands

It is now more than three decades ago that Lenneberg ( 1967) advanced the hypothesis that there is a critical period, roughly between age 2 and puberty, for the acquisition of language. He argued that, due to a loss of neural plasticity, languages could no longer be completely successfully acquired after the close of that period. Whereas Lenneberg's claims were not restricted to the acquisition of accent, Scovel ( 1969, 1988) singled out pronunciation as the one area of language performance that was subject to the constraints of a critical period. His arguments were that pronunciation is "the only aspect of language that has a neuromuscular basis," requires "neuromotor involvement," and has a "physical reality" ( Scovel 1988, p. 101). He predicted that learners who start to learn a second language (L2) later than around age 12 will never be able "to pass themselves off as native speakers" and will "end up easily identified as nonnative speakers of that language" (p. 185). Clearly, such arguments and predictions hinge on the assumption that basic neurologically based abilities are irreversibly lost around the onset of puberty. 1

____________________
1
It should be noted, however, that Scovel ( 1988) allowed for the possibility that there may be some "superexceptional" L2 learners, about 1 out of 1,000 in any population of adult learners, who are not bound by the biological constraints of the critical period. Indeed, a number of studies published between 1988 and 1995

-133-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Second Language Acquisition and the Critical Period Hypothesis
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 191

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?