Second Language Acquisition and the Critical Period Hypothesis

By David Birdsong | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
Critical Periods and (Second) Language Acquisition: Divide et Impera

Lynn Eubank University of North Texas Kevin R. Gregg St. Andrew's University, Osaka


PRELIMINARIES

Does the critical period (CP) phenomenon have an effect on the acquisition by adults of second language (L2) competence? We believe it does; but we also believe that most discussions of the phenomenon in hte L2 literature are far too imprecise to be of much value. The imprecision begins at the most fundamental level, with basic presuppositions about language itself. Thus, we begin our discussion by laying some groundwork.


The Modularity of Mind -- The Modularity of Language

To start with, we assume a modular view of the mind-brain in general and of linguistic competence in particular. That is, we assume that there are various, relatively autonomous, mental faculties -- memory, face recognition, visual perception, and so forth -- and that these may also be broken down further into (perhaps less mutually autonomous) sub faculties -- short-term memory, episodic memory, and so forth. Similarly, we assume that linguistic competence (i.e., knowledge) is relatively autonomous from other forms of competence on the one hand and includes various relatively autonomous competences on the other. The fact that in normal life, for normal people, these competences work

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