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language and the mind prof r hickey ss 2006 first and second language acquisition

Language and the Mind Prof. R. Hickey SS 2006First and Second Language Acquisition

Deborah Simshäuser (LN Grundstudium)Michail Tsiropoulos (LN Grundstudium)Sandra Breian (LN Grundstudium)Marcel Kalisch (LN Grundstudium)Nadja Hoeckesfeld (TN Grundstudium)Hannah Link (LN Grundstudium)Meryem Gögdagöz (TN Grundstudium)Julia Sadokhina (TN Hauptstudium)

  • Describing and Explaining L2 Acquisition
  • The Nature of Learner Language
  • Interlanguage
  • Discourse aspects of interlanguage
  • Social aspects of interlanguage
  • Psychoanalytic aspects of interlanguage
  • Linguistic aspects of interlanguage
  • Individual differences in L2 Acquisition
introduction describing and explaining l2 acquisition
Introduction: describing and explaining L2 acquisition
  • What is `second language acquisition`?
    • It is the systematic study of how people acquire a second language (L2),
    • it is a recent phenomenon and
    • it belongs to the second half of the twentieth century.
  • Definition:
  • L2 acquisiton is the way in which people learn a language subsequent to their mother tongue, for instance, naturally as a result of living in a country where it is spoken or through instructions in a classroom.
  • Second language acquisition (SLA) is the study of this.
introduction describing and explaining l2 acquisition1
Introduction: describing and explaining L2 acquisition
  • The aims of SLA:

The question one has to ask is how learners acquire a second language?

  • So one of the aims is the description of L2 acquisition, one collects and analyses samples of learners language (the language learners produce when they have to use an L2 in speech or writing).
  • Another aim is explanation one figures out internal and external factors which play a role for learners who acquire an L2:

a) Internal factors like cognitive mechanisms and knowledge

b) External factors like the social milieu and the input

introduction describing and explaining l2 acquisition2
Introduction: describing and explaining L2 acquisition
  • Two case studies
    • Definition:

A case study is a detailed study of a learner´s acquisition of an L2. These studies are longitudinal (samples of the learner´s speech or writing are collected over a period of time).

  • The first case study is a study of an adult learner learning English in surroundings of daily communication.
  • The second case study is a study of two children learning English in a classroom.
introduction describing and explaining l2 acquisition3
Introduction: describing and explaining L2 acquisition
  • Methodological issues and investigations:
  • The second study is more typical of SLA because researchers have to focus on some specific aspects of Language rather than on the whole complex phenomenon.
  • One has to make a distinction between their knowledge and what learners can do.
  • One possibility to measure whether acquistion has taken place or not is to consider the overuse of linguistic forms.
  • Issues in the description of learner language
  • Issues in the explanation of L2 acqusition
the nature of learner language
The Nature of Learner Language

Errors and error analysis I

  • Identifying errors
      • comparison of sentences produced by the learners with the "correct" sentences in the target language
      • distinction: error <–> mistake
  • Describing errors
      • classification into types – 2 ways:
        • classification into grammatical categories
        • try to identifiy general ways in which the learners utterances differ from target-language utterances

- omission ->leaving out items which are required for

grammatical correctness

- misinformation -> use of one grammatical form instead of another

- misordering -> putting words in a wrong order

the nature of learner language1
The Nature of Learner Language

Errors and error analysis II

  • Explaining errors
    • systematic errors

-> L2 learners create rules on their own – different to the rules of the target language

    • universal errors

-> L2 learners commit the same grammatical errors

  • Error evaluation

-> purpose: to help learners to learn an L2.

      • Global errors
      • Local errors
the nature of learner language2
The Nature of Learner Language

Developmental patterns I

  • The early stages of L2 acquisition

- silent period

- formulaic chunks -> use of fix expressions

- propositional simplification

  • The order of acquisition

= the mental system of a learner‘s L2 knowledge

 To understand the concept of interlanguage we need to consider two major learning theories:

1. Behaviourist learning theory:(1950s & 1960s)

  • language learning involves habit formation

 habit = stimulus-response connection

  • emphasize on what can be directly observed
  • ignorance of what goes on in the `black box´ of the learner`s mind

 cannot adequately account for L2 Acquisition (L2A), because learning is not just a response to an external stimuli !


2. Mentalist theory of language learning:(1960s & 1970s)

  • major shift in thinking in psychology and linguistics
  • researchers switched their attention from the role of `nurture´ to that of `nature´
    • `nurture´  how environmental factors shape learning
    • `nature´  how innate properties of the human mind shape learning
  • mentalist view of L1 Acquisition:
    • only human beings are capable of learning language
    • they are equipped with a faculty for this, referred to as Language Acquisition Device
    • it is the primary determinant of LA
    • input is needed, but only as a `trigger´

 The concept of interlanguage draws directly on the mentalist theory with elements from cognitive psychology !


What is interlanguage ??

  • term was coined by the American linguist Larry Selinker
  • it is a unique linguistic system that draws, in part, on the learner`s L1, but also differs from it as well as from the target language
  • the concept involves some premises about L2A:
    • the learner constructs a system of abstract linguistic rules

 mental grammar

    • the learner´s grammar is permeable

outside influence  learner  inside influence

    • the learner´s grammar is transitional
    • learners employ various learning strategies
    • the learner´s grammar is likely to fossilize


  • Concept offers a general account of how L2A takes place, but it does not offer a precise explanation!
  • Can be viewed as a metaphor of how L2A takes place!

A model of L2A:

Input intake L2 knowledge output

social aspects of interlanguage
Social aspects of interlanguage

1. different styles of language use depending on the condition of the use

Elaine Turon: stylistic continuum

careful style vernacular style

Howard Giles: accommodation theory

convergence divergence

social aspects of interlanguage1
Social aspects of interlanguage

2. determination of the input by social factors

John Schumann: acculturation model

social distance

social aspects of interlanguage2
Social aspects of interlanguage

3. social identities

Bonny Pierce: relationship between social context and L2 acquisition

subject to subject of

 investment

discourse aspects of interlanguage
Discourse aspects of interlanguage

- Goals in the study of learner discourse in SLA

- Acquiring discourse rules

- Example: compliment + response

- more research is needed

discourse aspects of interlanguage1
Discourse aspects of interlanguage
  • The role of input and interaction in L2 acquisition
    • behaviourist, mentalist & interactionist view
    • foreigner talk: ungrammatical & grammatical
    • negotiation of meaning (examples)
    • linguists views on that topic:

- Krashen: input hypothesis

- Long: interaction hypothesis

- Hatch: scaffolding

  • The role of output in L2 acquisition
    • Does speaking L2 help learning L2?
discourse aspects of interlanguage2
Discourse aspects of interlanguage

Example 1

  • Baseline talk:

-> You won’t forget to buy the ice-cream on your way home, will you?

  • Ungrammatical foreigner talk:

-> No forget buying ice-cream, eh?

  • Grammatical foreigner talk:

-> The ice-cream – You will not forget to buy it on your way home – Get it when you are coming home. All right?

Example 2

A: A man is drinking coffee with the saucer of the coffee set in his knee.

B:in him knee

A: uh on his knee

B: yeah

A: on his knee

B: so sorry: on his knee.

psychoanalytic aspects of interlanguage



Psychoanalytic aspects of interlanguage

Psycholinguistics: study of mentalstructures and processes involved in the acquisition and the use of language

L1 Transfer + Communication Strategies:

  • negative transfer / interference
  • positive transfer
  • paraphrasing
  • borrowing

 Interlanguage development takes place by transfer but mainly by forming interim rules!

 not interference but cognitive process

SELINKER: choice of communication strategy reflects learners´ stage of development

psychoanalytic aspects of interlanguage1
Psychoanalytic aspects of interlanguage

1. Stephen KRASHEN

acquired vs learned L2 knowledge

2. Richard SCHMIDT

consciousness as: intentionality, attention, awareness

a) intentionality: intentional vs incidental

b) attention: conscious attention to features of the input is always required

subconscious learning is not the same as learning without conscious attention!

c) awareness

whether the learner is conscious of acquiring L2 knowledge

Different kinds of knowledge:

-implicit knowledge

-explicit knowledge

 explicit knowledge can at least help indirectly to process the input and the intake!

psychoanalytic aspects of interlanguage2
Psychoanalytic aspects of interlanguage

Processing operations

a) Operating principles:

  • SLOBIN (L1): general strategies to extract and segment linguistic information from the input, eg `avoid interruption and rearrangement of linguistic units´, `avoid exceptions´
  • ANDERSEN (L2): macro principles

eg one-to-one-principle (one meaning—one form)

b) Processing constraints:

  • multidimensional model able to explain learners´ differences
  • rules either sequential or at any stage to acquire

1. Developmental axis: to move from one stage to another

2. Variational axis: socio-psychological factor (wilingness to integrate)

psychoanalytic aspects of interlanguage3
Psychoanalytic aspects of interlanguage

Two Types of Computational Model

  • mental processes involved in constructing and using an interlanguage
  • not directly to be viewed but inferred from learners´ behaviour
  • Cognition = black box: extracts information from the input, works on it, stores it and uses it in input

1. Serial processing:

Series of sequential steps which results in some kind of rule or strategy

2. Parallel distributing process:

several mental tasks simultaneously worked out: mental network

psychoanalytic aspects of interlanguage4
Psychoanalytic aspects of interlanguage



  • avoiding, borrowing, paraphrasing, substituting
  • interlanguage development takes place by transfer but mainly by forming interim rules!
  • choice of communication strategy reflects learners´ stage of development


a) learned vs acquired

b) intentionality, attention, awareness

 explicit knowledge is often helpful for implicit knowledge


  • operating principles
  • processing restrictions: Multidimensional model (developmental & variational axis)


a) serial processing

b) parallel distributing process

linguistic aspects of interlanguage
Linguistic aspects of interlanguage

How does language influence development?

  • First example: Typological universals: relative clauses

 Some languages have relative clauses, others do not

Effects of relative clause structure on L2 acquisition

  • It is easier to learn a L2 with relative clauses if you already know them from your L1.
  • There are two ways to use relative clauses in English: attached to the end of a sentence or interrupting a main clause.

Learners of L2 English tend to use the first possibility.

  • The accessibility hierarchy of relative clauses

In most cases (languages) relative clauses with a subject pronoun (who) are used more often than those with an object pronoun (whom).

linguistic aspects of interlanguage1
Linguistic aspects of interlanguage
  • 6 relative pronoun functions:
    • Subject
    • Direct object
    • Indirect object
    • Object of preposition
    • Genitive
    • Object of comparative

It is not really clear if or how far the accessibility hierarchy influences the

acquisition of relative clauses.

But it is an important example of the relation between SLA and linguistics.

linguistic aspects of interlanguage2
Linguistic aspects of interlanguage

Universal Grammar

  • Based on Noam Chomsky´s theory of Universal Grammar which says that there are “highly abstract principles that provide parameters which are given particular settings in different languages”
  • Reflexives: `Local binding`, for example, is permitted in English, whereas `Long –distance binding` is forbidden. But other languages, such as Japanese, permit both.
  • Result: Japanese Learners of L2 English do have to learn that reflexives in English permit only local binding. The question if they are able to do so could not be answered clearly. Not even by a number of studies. It is not absolutely clear, although very important.
linguistic aspects of interlanguage3
Linguistic aspects of interlanguage


  • Main question: Are children able to learn a language (L1) only on the basis of input or do they rely on innate knowledge of language (as Chomsky maintains). The argument is that children can not acquire their L1 successfully only with the help of input.
  • Chomsky: Children can not learn the full grammar of their mother tongue only through input. They must have some information about grammar in their biological endowment.
  • Some mistakes which can be found in L2 acquisition do not seem to appear in L1 acquisition because they are forbidden by Universal Grammar.
individual differences in l2 acquisition
Individual differences in L2 acquisition

The success depends on:

  • Language aptitude
  • Motivation
  • Learning strategies

Language aptitude – a natural ability for learning an L2:

- auditory ability

- linguistic ability

- memory

individual differences in l2 acquisition1
Individual differences in L2 acquisition


  • Instrumental motivation

learning for some functional reason, e.g. to get a better job

  • Integrative motivation

interest in the people and culture

  • Resultative motivation

motivation is the result of learning

  • Intrinsic motivation

interest in learning activities

individual differences in l2 acquisition2
Individual differences in L2 acquisition


Cognitive, metacognitive and social/affective strategies

  • Successful language learners pay attention to both form and meaning
  • Good language learners are very active
  • Show awareness of the learning process and their personal learning styles
  • Are flexible and appropriate in their use of learning strategies
  • Ellis, Rod 1997. Second Langauage Acquisition. Oxford: University Press.
  • Byram, Michael 2000. Routledge Encyclopedia of Language Teaching and Learning. London and New York: Routledge.