Studies in first and second language acquisition

Studies in first and second language acquisition

Book reviews which were intended to be rational but commit errors. 1FIowever,although these and many other kms ::x ex~iienriy mvered asad brought tog...

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Book reviews

which were intended to be rational but commit errors. 1FIowever,although these and many other kms ::x ex~iienriy mvered asad brought together in this text, certain aspects of world, in this field are sadly neglected. For j.&ance, despite the plies for consideration $af the contextual and pragmatic factors in sentence processing, few studies reporred in this ~olunmec8!‘2kain stimuli kh~t are longer than a single sentence. B&oresigirificankly-,she question ~8;to whether ,c&entenceprxessing is uniqueiy lingGstic or whether it is an instance of a more general cognitive heuristic is hardly considered. Shuli S. Reich Middlesex I1+syikal Medical Schoo! FJniversiky of Ion&x London, iV0. England Shuli

S. &eich recwved her B!r.D. in psychotingulstics fpom Universil v’C~llepe L,wdw1, and is research associate in psycholugy at the lMiddlcsex Hospital MedbGzd Sch~w;, LJniversity of‘ London. She has lectured on and published articles inaspeech percepti(. readings rt:asnning and neurolin~:uistics, and is currently researching into the mechanisms underlying acquired dysphasia.

Fred R. E&man and Ashley .I. Hastings. eds., SmJies in jir~ and secand iangmge acyui~ilion. Rowley, MA: Newbury House 1979. 356 pp. $ 13.95. This book prestnts the revised versions of papers delivered a;: a symposium on Ianguage Acquisition on March 18 and 19. 11977at the University of Wisconsin. As staked by the editors, the gc~alof kihe book is i o demonstrate similarikim betwm first and second 1:nguage acquisition. In addition, through this topic ihe cdikr,rs strive to fulfill the basic funckkon of the symposium, ix., kIle/ drawing togeeher of theoretical linguistics, psycholinguistics :!nd applied lingui:,tics tllrbu& issues of mutual interest. The editors attempt to fulfill their goals both direr tly, through the content of the papers and indirectly, through the jux t~~positionof papers. The book consists of 16 chapkers: nme in part I and s:veq in p;i~I 11. Park ! focuses on first language acquisition. This section si the book is much stronger than part II. For the most par-t, each paper gives a clear statement of a kheorekical position before presenting research or practical concerns. In this way. the reader is made aware of the underlying 1inguistL; nn01el and inence, the basis for the interpretation of data. The first paper, ‘Assumpti0ns, methods anti goals ir language acquisition research’ by A!li> Sheldon, direc!ly qbnesti.ons fhe role of linguistic theory in the study of language xquisition. When the term “‘linguiskic kheory” is used in this paper and most of t;he others, it is equated ~4th a Chomskyan framewxk. It is this Choms$van position khat Sheldon refutes. The arguments and problems are presented clearlyz and the xrthor leaves the reader in the difk%.xlt but sthnu!ating dilemnna of having more questions raised thar,, answered. Sheldon touches on an

extensive amount of research within the coniines of this one paper. If the reader were unfamiliar with this research, it would be tlifficul: to follow and acceptance of Sheldon’s position would likely be on faith rather tl-an true understanding. AS is the problem with all of the papers, the bulk of the research referred to dntes prior to t 975. Currently, the environmentalist position, so al dently defended by Sheldon, is mu ch more accepte, A than in earlier years. Readers who are unaware of the rich history in the field of language acquisition rtfsearch ‘nay even feel that the pager confronts a nonissue. The second chapter, “Th z mother as LAC : interaction between order and frequenzy of parental input and child production’ by Monika Forner, again establishes a strong theoretical position. As in the first paper, the refuted theoretics! pr’ssition is Chomskyan - the debate is between the nentalis t and environmentalist positions. Forner uses a very persuasive resezzch m&od, i,e., reinterpretation of previously reported data. Thrflugh this means, it iz demonstrated that there is roof conclusilre evidf nce against the role of environrrental influences on language acquisition as some researchers state. Based on data collected, Forner rejects the null hypothesis that mother’s input and child spee& are not related and accepts carrelationzl stateme,-rts. To the author’s credit, the exploration is continued beyond the corzlational findings , emphasizing that such :indings do not answer the underlying causal q!restion. This paper c!early presents questions and is:jues, and guides the reader through posseble alter L7ative interpretations. The level of datl presentation, thz statistical information offered and the theoretical inte *pretation all require a sophisticated reader. It is of partictllar interest for a studerit to note how this one set of data is given niu!tiple interpretations. Ilt is therefore lecessaly for the reader to be familiar with other research so as to be able to ev!!uate tre interpretation and not be swab.ed by the ?yt_22cx’sbiz:. Chapter 3, ‘Stress acquisition: the role of’ hon ogeneous rules’ by Thomas Roeper. Barbara Stack and Greg Carlson, 1 ke the first two Iehapters, bases its theoretical position within a Chomskyan natitist motlel. Mo!respecifically, it examines hypothesis testing by LAD as the child *cquires his or her native tongue. For the student reader, the methodology chosen holds special interest. example of how experimental methodology c’early reflects the researcher’s theo;,etical underpinnings. In this instance, the procc:dure fcr sampling :,tress patterns, the use of v-ritterr material as stimuli, and the use of seven and eight year o!ds as srbjeets all yefleet the Chomskyan attitude th_ at one seeks formalized rule patterns as language knowledge. Helen Goodluck and Thornils Roeper in ‘The acquisition of perception verb complements (chapter 4) explore how children Yearn that there is a relationship betvieen the syntactic bshavior of some wor js and I heir semantic properties. The a&ors clearly present tne theoretical base and ihe d Ita. The results are interpreted from more than one point of view and the conclusons relate the frimdingsto the


theoretical underpinnings. Tltis paper 3s well organized and could [email protected]? serve as a model for the novice student wriier. The article by Lawrence Solar;, “The acquisition of tough movement’, is an inter.. esting attempt to resolve an analy lical dispute concerning adult English on the basis of data\ from language acquisition, It thereby fosters the joining of the two areas of study - language acquisition hi1 lingpistic theory (one of :he goals of the text). Unfortunately. the article is difficult to read unless one is extremely well -versed in the particular linguistic issue. Chapter 4, ‘Children’s interpretation of refletiive pronolins in Enghsi$ bg Charles Read and Victoria Ckou Hare offers the reader both interesting findings ar.d an opportunity to see how one study can t:;merge from anorhe;. Chapters 7, 8 and 9 (“The acquisition of alsk and tell structures by ambicspeaking children’ by Wayne K. AIler Sonia K. Aller ,md L,ma Malouf-Saad; Tl-:~! structure of coordination in children’s first langllage ;1cqui:::t.ion of Japanese by Barbara Lust and Tatsuke Kaneda Wa6iy;ma; The acq\lisitiou of action representations in American s’i,‘,nlanguage’ b;q Marcia Steyaert and Ruth Ellenberger) seek to broade:n our

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from other languages. Without reports such as tlhese, tile scope of the study or language acquisition would be limited. M three studies clearly present theory, methodology and results so that comparisons with studies involving English speaking children can be drawn. Part II focuses on second language acquisition. Overall, the studies reported are not at the same level as those in part I. A major problt;m lie 3 in those papers that directly compare first and second language learning, i.e., there! is a tendency to contrast two unequal conditions. First language ie;Imers who 1,:arn i7vit.hina natural environment are compared with second language leanl.:rs who learn within a classroom setting. The section begins with a review paper, ‘The comparative study of first and second language acqu:isition’ by Bernard Spolsky. The piper is so that it oversimplifies the topics - a direct contrast to t.l-repapcsrsin part I. The article concludes by quoting Ervin-Tripp: “studying second la ige learners in action cm.U be a very valuable way of learntig morL: about whole procl$ss of language acquisition”. Unfortunately, none of t5e subsequc:nt studies l*eported in part II follow this advice! The study by Stephen J. Gaies ‘I_;[email protected] input in first and second language learning’ aypc3rs to recognize the m5iYdality in &awing a comparison between first languag: le~-ners who learn in a naL14, al environnrem; alld second language learners who learn in a clas:;room environmer,t. The intent of the article is to defend ehe viability of this comparison. Tht: author concludes that “the foreign language teacher may serve the same or &n&r functiof:l in second lmguage [email protected] as does &.e parent in first language acquisition”. ‘Through thes: findings, me mthur &aims further support for the hypothesis that “first and second languages learntig :lre ti rnmy ways qaalitatively similar and should not be assumed to proceed in a

fundamentally different manner”. These t :onclusi ons are hastily made considering the data from which they are drawn. Chapter 12; ‘Acquisition of English pr epositirlris by monolingual and bilingual (l+nch/Engli:sh) Ontarian students’ by Rsymontl Mougeon, Michael Canale, and Susanne C;irroll introduces the reader to a rlf’cessarv additional topic - bilingualism. However, :he presentation of the topic fails to deline the theoretical underpinnings aqd, in addition, the research methodology is not succinctly controlled. Albert<, Rey in chapter 13 (‘The devzlopme ?tJl aspects of second language a,:quisitiorl revisited’) discusses a highly specializl:d topic .-- the usefulness of the WAT (Word Aptitude Tesli as 3 measure of bilingual proliciency. Though the paper deals with a pracrica! concern, it does not ~‘ulfillthe editors’ goal of linking alJplicatio:l and linguistic theory, i.e., the autho * does not offer any theoretical underpinnings for the procerlure. II! cha!&r 14 (‘The acquisition of German as :Lsecolld language’ by William D. Keel,), Kez’ explores the acquisition of the German phonological system by second ‘languagtaLrners. (Jnlike the other papers in pirt II, the material is presented within 3 t 1n,. (irly defined theoretical frank;:. The re;tder is thereby left with a model ,from which other questions could be raised ;md an!;wered. Chapters 15 and 15 (‘Two birds with cne stone: teaching a standard dialect to 1~1xedclasses’ by Rotlolfo .I. Cortina srnd Dliver 1’. Myers; ‘Teac!21ilgenglish suprascgmentals tr> Spanish speakers’ by Berrh:l Chcl,s de Rodriguez) appear to be the eflitcrs’ attempt to bring in practical aI:lplication i. The focus shifts frorn the lang!laF;c?learner to the ltinguage teacher. Unr’crtunste y, both of these papers omit any thezefical discussion, thereby giving the reader the impression that theory is not a n zcessary component when formulating pri:ctiCal t~:chniques. Overall, part I is considerably more effective pa1.t II. Part I gives the leader clear examples of data reporting; exam$es of how to formulate appropriate rtsearch questions from rheoretical positions; e:;amples of how theoretical bias shapes 1he fonnulatiori of methodology arid the interpretation of results; examples alld sour(*esof questions for further research. Part 1:fulfills the editors’ goal of linkini; tlteoretical linguistics, psycholinguistics 311d applied linguistics, while the juxtaposition of l)art I with part II fulfills the goal OFseeking similarities between first and second lanrptage acquisition. Unfortunately, the sophisticated reader would not be stimulatei by the research on second language acc!uisition reported in part II. In rdd;tioI., since this research draws compar sons between first language learners who acquire language in natural environments and second language learners who acquire la zguage in a elassroom setting, the similarities reported can be invalidated b:, currelit research in the pragmatics of language. Further, the omission of theore tical in ‘ormation within the “‘practical” pipers (chapters 15 and 16) serves to vicllate a 1;oal of the text, i.e., it separates ps*acticalfrom theoretical concerns. In general, the book is appropriate for graduate students aqd profess:ionals. P13rtI would be of special interest to those students learning how to do research.

Book t-eview:r


However, since the linguistic theory confronted by most of the authors is not a current ic pit for debate, the book might not have the drawin 3 power for the student poy!ulation. Nancy 2. Schwartz Weston, CT, USA IVanc_vZ. S~CIMVV?Z (b. 1949). B A. in 2970 and M.A. in 19’72 from :.jueens College, N.Y. Ph.D. in 15’77 from the City University of New York, N.Y. Was elnployed during the past four yt US, as a11 Assistant Professor at California Stiltc Ci;+*crsity at Long Bei ch, and as Diicctor .,t’ il;? Scotl\sh Rite Institutt for Childhood Aphasia in Lx Anpelcs. Culrcr tiy working indcpcndently as a 1;r:duage consultant.

Alar Crut tenden, Language in [email protected]_vad c11.~~~ V2~~od. Mai~ilester: Uanch~:stcr Uniy Press, 1979. 193 pp. E 3.40 (paperback).


This book presents itself as ‘intended for all students of linguistics and c!;iU {anguage, and also for those concerned with la 11guageteaching or remedi3tioii’. it should be stressed that the term ‘student’ is used in the narrow sense. The book is not written for the specialist reader, but is primarltv 8e_+, ““ZC-i:8s a teaching or ilntroductory text. AS such, its potential interest for reacll5rsof :his journal will be twofold: its utility as a teaching tool .md its reflection of the! state of the field, t!~ latter on the assumption that an il!troductory text should .3im to ilh~~~k~‘fc tilt. most important research and theori !s current in its area. The book ~111Se reviewed with these two considcrahion; in mi!ld. Any introduction to child language is pitted into an urlfortunatf competition; with a strong front-runner already well-establ.i~hed, in the form of Dale (1976). Cruttenden prefaces his book with the statemt$nt that it i:, intentionally diff’ereni from precursors by Menyuk (1969), McNeil1 (I 9’XI) and Dale (lf72, 1:;t ed.), giving the explanation that his approach is from the viewpoint of linguistics rather than psychology, This is a curious implied comment on Mcflytik and McKeill’s boc)k:;, writier! at the peak of transformationalist fervour, aa~clstill standing a