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Other Linguistic Approaches to SLA. Typological and Functional Approaches. Typological Approaches. Stem from study of universals exhibited in languages worldwide. (Greenberg 1963, especially)

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Other linguistic approaches to sla l.jpg

Other Linguistic Approaches to SLA

Typological and Functional Approaches


Typological approaches l.jpg
Typological Approaches

  • Stem from study of universals exhibited in languages worldwide. (Greenberg 1963, especially)

  • Note that universal tendencies can be generalized across unrelated and geographically non-adjacent languages.

  • Expressed in terms of implications: If language has feature X, it will also have feature Y.


Central questions for sla l.jpg
Central questions for SLA:

  • To what extent do the constraints that govern natural languages also govern Interlanguage systems?

  • What is the extent of the influence of universals (vs. transfer, for example) on the developing IL system?


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If ease/difficulty of acquisition depends on the typology of the language, and not on the discrete language itself, we should see similarities in acquisition patterns across languages with similar typologies.


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We can test this with various language features: the language, and not on the discrete language itself, we should see similarities in acquisition patterns across languages with similar typologies.

  • Accessibility hierarchy (relative clauses)

  • Question formation

  • Phonology


Accessibility hierarchy l.jpg
Accessibility hierarchy the language, and not on the discrete language itself, we should see similarities in acquisition patterns across languages with similar typologies.

  • Languages worldwide accept/disallow relative clauses in the following order:

    • Subject:

      Mr. Gates introduced me to the man who lives next door to him.

    • Direct object:

      Mr. Gates introduced me to the man who(m) he met last night

    • Indirect objet:

      Mr. Gates introduced me to the man to who(m) he had given the job.

    • Object of prep:

      Mr. Gates intoduced me to the man he bought the car for.

    • Genitive:

      Mr. Gates introduced me to the man whose daughter lives next door to him

    • Object of comparison:

      Mr. Gates introduced me to a man that he doesn’t have more money than.


Assessibility hierarchy l.jpg
Assessibility hierarchy the language, and not on the discrete language itself, we should see similarities in acquisition patterns across languages with similar typologies.

  • The hierarchy predicts that L2 learners will have more difficulty with items that are lower than their original starting point; will assume that everything above their original starting point on the hierarchy is possible.


Question formation l.jpg
Question formation the language, and not on the discrete language itself, we should see similarities in acquisition patterns across languages with similar typologies.

  • Greenbergian universals note that:

    • Wh- inversion implies wh-fronting

      (i.e., the verb isn’t inverted unless the question word is also extracted)

    • Yes-no inversion implies wh-inversion

      (i.e, no inversion in yes-no questions unless there is also inversion in wh- questions)

      Yes/no inversion thus most marked among the languages of world, wh-fronting least.


Question formation9 l.jpg
Question formation the language, and not on the discrete language itself, we should see similarities in acquisition patterns across languages with similar typologies.

  • In SLA studies, the question has therefore been, if learners have the most marked feature, do they also have the least marked?

  • ANSWER: yes.

  • However, the reverse is not always true – learners may have the least marked, but never acquire the more marked.


Phonology l.jpg
Phonology the language, and not on the discrete language itself, we should see similarities in acquisition patterns across languages with similar typologies.

  • Voiceless stop is a highly marked feature among world languages

  • Spanish and Mandarin L2 learners of English resolve the problem differently: Spanish learners substitute a voiced stop, Mandarin speakers insert an epenthetic schwa.


Phonology11 l.jpg
Phonology the language, and not on the discrete language itself, we should see similarities in acquisition patterns across languages with similar typologies.

  • Why the different solutions, despite the same problem?

  • ANSWER: both are resorting to L1 for a solution.

  • Spanish pulls another obstruent from the same place of articulation.

  • Mandarin has no final obstruents, voiced or voiceless, so chooses another solution that conforms to L1 phonology: a final vowel.


Falsifiability l.jpg
Falsifiability the language, and not on the discrete language itself, we should see similarities in acquisition patterns across languages with similar typologies.

  • How do we explain research results that don’t match expectations?

  • Rather than questioning the theory, as was sometimes the case with UG, with typological approaches the tendency has been to weaken the claim. Argue for ‘tendencies’ vs. universals, and allow room for influence from learner’s L1.


Functional approaches l.jpg
Functional Approaches the language, and not on the discrete language itself, we should see similarities in acquisition patterns across languages with similar typologies.

  • Look at how form and function relate; allow for interfaces between pragmatics, semantics, syntax, morphology and lexicon.


Explanations for emergence of verb tenses by l2 learners l.jpg
Explanations for emergence of Verb Tenses by L2 learners the language, and not on the discrete language itself, we should see similarities in acquisition patterns across languages with similar typologies.

  • Aspect hypothesis

  • Discourse hypothesis


Aspect hypothesis l.jpg
Aspect hypothesis the language, and not on the discrete language itself, we should see similarities in acquisition patterns across languages with similar typologies.

  • Proposes that acquisition of verb tenses will be associated with inherent semantic aspect of verbs/predicates.

  • Preterite – emerges first for punctual / achievement verbs

  • Imperfect – emerges first for state verbs

    Morphology then spreads to other types of verbs and other aspects, but is dependent on semantics.


Aspect hypothesis16 l.jpg
Aspect hypothesis the language, and not on the discrete language itself, we should see similarities in acquisition patterns across languages with similar typologies.

  • Much of the research with L2 learners supports this hypothesis:

  • Preterite first used with verbs like ‘jump’

  • Imperfect with verbs like ‘be’


Discourse hypothesis l.jpg
Discourse hypothesis the language, and not on the discrete language itself, we should see similarities in acquisition patterns across languages with similar typologies.

  • Distinguishes background and foreground material. Suggests that learners use emerging verbal morphology to distinguish these.

  • Some evidence of this in research for past tenses, but may also interact with Aspect hypothesis – i.e., with inherent semantic aspect of verbs.


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