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Social and Cognitive Factors in Second Language Acquisition:
Selected Proceedings of the 1999 Second Language Research Forum

edited by Bonnie Swierzbin, Frank Morris, Michael E. Anderson, Carol A. Klee, and Elaine Tarone
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The papers in this volume, all presented on a sunny weekend at the 1999 Second Language Research Forum at the University of Minnesota, are representative of the broad range of research being done on second language acquisition (SLA). Some studies focus on the learning strategies employed by second-language learners. Some examine the internal psychological process of SLA, including work on the principles and parameters of the universal language faculty. Others represent the second-language learner as a social being, documenting the social and interactional forces that impact the learner. A very few attempt to examine the interplay of external (social) and internal (psychological) forces in SLA.

The small number of papers examining this interface is itself typical of the field. There is typically not much relationship between SLA research focusing on interlanguage use in social context, and SLA research focusing on psychological factors and acquisition of a second language over time (for a commentary, cf. Tarone 2000).

The Impact of Social Factors on SLA

Dennis Preston's paper "Three kinds of sociolinguistics and SLA: A psycholinguistic perspective" brings these two strands of research together as the author considers in depth the psycholinguistic implications of language variation, and particularly of research on interlanguage variation. He outlines three kinds of variationist sociolinguistics, each of which requires a different psycholinguistic model to account for the described variation: Level I, which examines the correlation between linguistic and social facts; Level II, which analyzes the influence of one linguistic factor on another; and Level III, which relates patterns of linguistic change (e.g., acquisition over time) to both the sociocultural factors of Level I and the linguistic factors of Level II. He argues that Level III sociolinguistic research has the most important implications for SLA, which is "a fast-track version of language change," and proposes a psycholinguistic model suggesting that individual grammars contain competing alternatives and that performance criteria are essential in determining the evolution of those grammars over time. This model provides a framework for relating SLA research on social factors and research on psycholinguistic processes which is long overdue.

In her contribution "Getting serious about language play: Language play, interlanguage variation and second language acquisition," Elaine Tarone explores the interaction of social factors and cognitive processes through an analysis of the possible role of language play on second language acquisition. Although language play is not necessary for SLA, Tarone makes a case for considering it a factor that could facilitate the process of SLA for some learners. After documenting the occurrence of language play among children learning their L1 as well as children and adolescents acquiring an L2, she describes the potential contribution of language play to second language development within two theoretical frameworks, that of Larsen-Freeman (1997) who describes interlanguage (IL) as a dynamic, complex nonlinear system and that of Bakhtin (1981) who proposes that in language use the forces of normalization and individual creativity are counterbalanced. She concludes that there are several ways in which language play may facilitate second-language acquisition for those learners who engage in it. Most notably, the sort of form-oriented language play that generates creative interlanguage forms could be one means by which the interlanguage rule system can be destabilized, making it possible for interlanguage to evolve. Tarone's contribution points to the need for research in natural social settings to document the interaction of the expression of individual creativity in language play with interlanguage development over time.

Discourse Structure

In their study on the pragmatic use of modality, "Oppositional talk and the acquisition of modality in L2 English," Tom Salsbury and Kathleen Bardovi-Harlig approach the topic from an acquisitional perspective. By framing their work in terms of the acquisition and use of modality, they are able to compare the grammatical development and pragmatic use of modality over time by adult ESL learners in interactions of discord. They argue that pragmatic development can lag behind grammatical development in this situation. Through interviews with students they are able to explore the social aspects of language acquisition (like face-saving) as well as the cognitive aspects (like acquisition of grammar). This paper will be of interest not only to researchers and educators interested in the pragmatic use of modality, but also to those who might wish to extend this research in social directions such as exploring the impact of social situations on the acquisition of a grammatical function.

When learners are in the process of acquiring an L2 they may encounter two or more grammatical forms that are syntactically similar but that possess different pragmatic functions, a phenomenon explored by Margaret DuFon in her study "The acquisition of negative responses to experience questions in Indonesian as a second language by Sojourners in naturalistic interactions." The Indonesian language has a variety of negative forms, including tidak and belum. Unfortunately, the pragmatic differences between the two forms are seldom explained to learners. As a result of this, and possibly of the tendency of L2 learners to acquire pragmatic function later than grammatical function (cf. Salsbury and Bardovi-Harlig, this volume) learners often overgeneralize tidak in contexts where belum is appropriate. Current research has yet to address how learners acquire the two negative forms, in particular belum. Thus, the study seeks to examine how belum is used by native-speakers and how it is acquired by L2 learners. Six adult foreign language learners of Indonesian participated in the study. A number of "natural" conversational interactions between learners and native-speakers were transcribed and analyzed. Results indicated that, consistent with the conclusions of the Salsbury and Bardovi-Harlig study, the pragmatic function of belum was acquired later than its grammatical function.

If readers are looking for studies on tense-aspect, the study by Adam P. Leary might be of interest. His study, "Acquiring Russian tense-aspect: Opaque input for L2 learners," seeks to investigate the influence of narrative structure and lexical aspect on the use of tense-aspect morphology. In particular, Leary tests the Interlanguage Discourse hypothesis and two claims of the Aspect hypothesis in an integrative framework proposed by Bardovi-Harlig (1998). Thus far, SLA studies have examined and defended both the Aspect and Discourse hypothesis with respect to the distribution of interlanguage tense/aspect morphology. But according to Leary, studies have yet to address the hypotheses using adult foreign language learners of Russian. Russian encodes tense and aspect in a morphologically rich system. Forty adult foreign language learners of Russian participated in this study. Participants had to watch a silent-film clip and afterwards were asked to produce a narrative retelling the story. To induce the past time, participants were instructed to begin their narrative with "Davnym davno" (once upon a time). Overall, results suggested that a number of learners followed the "universal tendencies of the Aspect and Interlanguage Discourse Hypothesis." More or less, events were patterned as perfectives in the foreground, and there was a high use of states and activities with imperfectives in the background.

Cognitive Factors: Universal Grammar and Transfer

The question, "What level of access to Universal Grammar (UG) do adult second language learners have?" has been heavily researched and hotly debated in the field of L2 syntax (see, for example, the papers by Kalt and Zakletskaia in this volume). The discussion surrounding this question and others familiar from the study of syntax should also be informed by the study of L2 phonology. This is one of the major themes of "Models of L2 phonological acquisition" by John Archibald. He points out that "like syntax, phonological knowledge involves complex, abstract, hierarchical representations," and provides examples of the need for these representations to support the results of studies of a wide range of L2 phonological phenomena. The examples, which include the acquisition of English /l/ and /r/ by speakers of Japanese and Chinese, the acquisition of English syllable structure by speakers of Spanish and Arabic, and the acquisition of English consonant clusters by speakers of Finnish and Korean, illustrate phenomena that cannot be explained by transfer alone. Those linguists who are perhaps unaccustomed to thinking about second language phonology as being composed of complex, abstract representations and as informing the discussion on UG will find much food for thought here.

The study by Naomi Bolotin, "Long-term immersion and access to UG," will be of interest to those who continue to ponder the effect that long term residence in a foreign country might have on foreign language development and native-like attainment. Studies to date have examined whether living in a foreign country for at least five years affects foreign language learners' ability to acquire native-like syntactic judgement (e.g., Johnson & Newport 1991). However, the extent to which a longer time of residence affects syntactical judgement has not been examined. Therefore, Bolotin's study is different from previous ones in that participants had lived in the foreign country for at least ten years. Participants were eleven adult native speakers of Farsi who arrived in the United States at an average age of twenty-three and had lived in the United States for at least ten years. Eleven native speakers of English served as the control group. All completed a grammaticality judgement task that tested parametric differences between English and Farsi. Overall results showed that a number of participants scored within the native speaker range. The author concluded that it might be possible to achieve L2 native-like proficiency after long term immersion. This basic research helps to inform the debate on access to Universal Grammar.

The paper "Why morphology is syntax: Determiner features and complex DPs in interlanguage production" by Christiane Bongartz describes the use of plurals in forming noun+noun compounds such as the toy factory/*the toys factory by second language learners of English and the association of such usage with specificity in the learners' IL system of determiners. Bongartz has based her research on the proposal (Abney, 1987; Longobardi, 1994, 1996) that noun phrases are headed by the functional category determiner. This analytical framework is promising considering the number of significant insights that have resulted from the study of other functional categories. In Bongartz's study, there is no stable association of regular plural s with specificity in the IL grammars of adult learners of English with L2s Chinese, Czech or German. The ways in which learners used plurals in noun+noun compounds indicate that the L1 determiner system and the L1 distribution of plural morphology need to be considered together to explain learners' usage.

Most studies of aspect in the SLA literature have focused on the verb system, examining tense and aspect in narratives of past events. Kimberly L. Geeslin's chapter on "The parameter of aspect: Evidence from the second language acquisition of Spanish" extends the application of aspectual variables to adjectives. In it she explores whether the features proposed to constitute the Parameter of Aspect (Smith 1997) are applicable to the copula + adjective construction in Spanish. She first demonstrates how these features can unify previous theoretical accounts of copula choice in Spanish (i.e., ser vs. estar). She then attempts to determine whether this theoretical model can predict the acquisition of the copula verbs by second language learners. In analyzing data from 77 high school Spanish students at four levels of study, Geeslin finds that certain features of the Parameter of Aspect (i.e., +/- perfective, +/-dynamic, and +/-telic) were significant predictors of estar usage at all levels of enrollment. However, because she detected no increase in the use of these features across levels of enrollment, Geeslin believes that these universals must be present at the onset of acquisition. Her results also indicate that although these cognitive universals are significant predictors of estar usage when examined in isolation, their importance relative to other contextual features (e.g., susceptibility to change of the referent, frame of reference) was not always significant. She thus concludes that other contextual features must be taken into account in conjunction with cognitive universals to explain the second language acquisition of copula choice in Spanish. Although she suggests that cognitive universals may interact with pragmatic and social factors to predict the acquisition of ser and estar, such an interaction is not the focus of her research and remains to be explored.

In the quarter century since Kenji Hakuta first reported on the speech of Uguisu (Hakuta 1974, 1975), the data have been extensively mined. The richness of the lode is demonstrated once again in "The status of IP and CP in child L2 acquisition" by Yumi Kakazu and Usha Lakshmanan, who analyze Uguisu's earliest utterances in a way similar to Radford's (1990) work on L1 acquisition. They show evidence for the presence of IP including the early emergence of finite verb forms in declaratives, the consistent suppliance of nominative case marked subjects, and the lack of null subjects in tenses clauses. Evidence for the presence of CP is found in the productive usage of preposed modals and auxiliaries in yes/no questions and wh-questions as well as wh-phrases in wh-questions. This research demonstrates that an L2 learner may manifest functional categories very early in the language acquisition process, in fact, almost from the beginning of full utterances in the L2.

Susan E. Kalt's contribution on "Non-direct object agreement in the second language Spanish of Southern Quechua speakers" focuses on the acquisition of feature specification of abstract functional categories within a minimalist framework to shed light on three competing hypotheses regarding the continuity of representation of functional features by adult second language learners. Specifically, she analyzes the suppliance and accuracy of feature matching of non-direct object clitics on verbs in a corpus of L2 Spanish narratives by L1 southern Quechua speakers who have six or more years of exposure to Spanish. In thematic contexts where Quechua has different agreement options than Spanish, there were novel utterances, i.e. case doubling on the possessee and person marking on the verb with a non-affected locative object. Kalt examines three possible explanations for the novel forms: (1) a fossilized version of Deficient Functional Structure based on her adaptation of Radford (1990), Vainikka (1993), and Eubank (1996), which predicts that L2 learners will create sentences devoid of functional structure in the end state; (2) Transfer Only (Schachter 1989; Hawkins and Chan 1997; Hawkins 1998) which predicts that learners will be limited to functional structure specifications instantiated in the L1; and (3) Full Transfer/Full Access (Schwartz and Spouse 1996), which predicts that the functional structure will initially match the L1, but in later stages may approximate that of the target language. She concludes that because of counterevidence to hypotheses (1) and (2), only the third hypothesis is plausible for these data. Her results must be considered preliminary because no initial state data is available for the subjects and Kalt did not have access to information on social and language exposure factors for each subject. As she points out, a longitudinal or cross sectional study should be conducted to distinguish more precisely among the three hypotheses.

In "Trying to see the unaccusative forest in second language acquisition," Hiroyuki Oshita looks at the broad picture of L2 acquisition of unaccusative and unergative verbs. The growth of a number of "trees" in the unaccusative forest of L2 English acquisition such as the production of non-target "passive" unaccusatives by learners with various L1s, and the production of non-target postverbal NP structures with unaccusatives by learners with some L1s but not others is explained by the Unaccusative Trap Hypothesis (Oshita, 1997). This hypothesis states that L2 learners adopt a non-target rule to map intransitive verbs' semantic representations to their syntactic argument structures, which results in unaccusative verbs being misanalyzed as unergatives. In the study included in this volume, Oshita applies the Unaccusative Trap Hypothesis to the acquisition of unaccusative verbs by English learners of Chinese and finds a simple and elegant account for the learners' U-shaped development pattern. The research supports the idea that UG is not, in the author's words, "an absolute constraint" but rather "a guiding force to help conform 'wild' grammars."

Taking an experimental approach to SLA research, Larissa Zakletskaia, author of "Picture Truth Value Judgement Task and L2 Knowledge of Reflexives," argues for use of a revision of the Truth Value Judgement Task used by Crain and McKee (1985) and Crain and Thornton (1998) to elicit data on interlanguage in a more systematic way. She argues that the methodologies used in previous studies in the area of L2 knowledge of reflexives might have affected the outcomes. Using the modified Picture Truth Value Judgement Task, this study investigates the L2 binding process of reflexives among adult native English-speaking learners of Russian. Zakletskaia concludes that the use of the revised task in the present study produces stronger evidence to support the linguistic principles of Universal Grammar.

Cognitive Factors: Input, Output and Negotiation

In his chapter entitled "Thirty years of input (or intake, the neglected sibling)" Bill VanPatten provides a brief historical overview of the construct of input and its evolution over the past 30 years. After reviewing the role of input in several mainstream theories, including Universal Grammar, the Competition Model, Processability Theory, and Sociocultural Theory, he concludes that in spite of significant advances in SLA research over the past 30 years, our knowledge of the role of input remains relatively unchanged. He then outlines how input processing, as a newer field of research that he has helped develop, may contribute to our understanding of how learners create linguistic systems by "(1) addressing some unanswered questions from early SLA research; (2) solving some problems in cognitive development; (3) addressing some of the issues in interpreting grammaticality judgement tasks; and (4) providing a framework for researching input enhancement." His chapter provides an overview of the rationale for input processing, as one set of cognitive processes that may help explain second language acquisition. He recognizes, however, that it is necessary to take into account distinct sets of processes that interact or depend on each other to develop a model of SLA that is both explanatory and predictive. Although VanPatten refers to the interaction of different sets of cognitive processes, we would suggest that the interaction of cognitive and social processes must be taken into account as well.

The study by Debra M. Hardison, "The neurocognitive foundation of second-language speech: A proposed scenario of bimodal development," will be of interest to those who draw from studies in the neurosciences to account for the L2 acquisition of adult learners. Based on results on neurocognitive studies and on spoken language processing, Hardison's work proposes a framework for the development of "bimodal (audio-visual)" second language speech. The proposal is consistent with studies on infant speech development, auditory-visual integration, cognitive psychology and neurobiology. Hardison's study provides evidence to support proposals by Pulvermüller and Schumann (1994) that neurobiological factors may underlie variable success in adult SLA. The study is also highly consistent with VanPatten's proposals regarding input enhancement (see VanPatten, this volume).

Eric Hauser's contribution, "Explicit and incidental instruction and learner awareness," investigates whether SLA researchers can classify learners as "aware" or "unaware" simply on the basis of the kind of instruction they receive: explicit vs. non-explicit. The study asks whether L2 learners become aware of grammar rules presented in incidental instruction, and whether that awareness correlates with improvement in ability to effectively use such rules in grammaticality judgement tasks. The study measure 30 Japanese ESL learners' use of rules for use of zero and definite articles with place names on a grammaticality judgement task. In a pre-test, treatment, post-test experimental design, their improvement in performance on that task was measured after they were given an incidental instruction treatment, and their awareness level was assessed in an oral debriefing session. Results indicate that the more-aware group scored significantly higher on the post-test, but that only a few learners were able to develop awareness of the target rule in the incidental instruction condition, that is, without explicit instruction. Hauser concludes that SLA researchers cannot continue to classify learners as "aware" or "unaware" simply on the basis of the kind of instruction they receive (whether explicit or non-explicit), and that future research on awareness must include a tool to independently assess learner awareness.

Rita Elaine Silver's contribution, "Input, output, and negotiation: Conditions for second language development," explores the impact of input processing, "bare-bones output," and negotiation on ESL learners' acquisition of English question formulation. In an experimental pre-test, post-test and delayed post-test design, 25 relatively advanced adult learners of English as a second language were divided into three treatment groups, and their progress through Pienemann & Johnston's five stages of English question formation was compared to that of a control group, with data obtained from performance on an oral dyadic information exchange gap task. Results showed that the only learners to improve in stage of question formation between the pre-test and the delayed post-test were four members of the negotiation group and two members of the control group. None of the members of the input processing and bare-bones output group changed significantly.

We include this paper in the volume because the research design sets up an interesting attempt to rigorously examine three current theories on the role of input, output and negotiation in the acquisition of a second language, and because the difficulties laid out by the author in operationalizing the predictions of these three theories are instructive. Obviously, these results, given the small number of subjects and other limitations pointed out by the author, can only be viewed as preliminary. But it is our view that the study, if replicated with larger numbers of subjects at a wider range of proficiency levels, would provide valuable insight into the input/output/negotiation debate.

Cognitive Factors: Learning Strategies

Like the Brooks-Carson and Cohen paper in this volume, Yukiko A. Hatasa and Eriko Soeda extend research on writing strategies to a new group of learners in their study, "Writing strategies revisited: A case of non-cognate L2 writers." In this case, the learners are advanced adult learners of Japanese from English language backgrounds. The researchers use verbal reports to get at the learners' strategy use and provide an extensive discussion of dictionary use as a writing strategy. Hatasa and Soeda argue that in this non-cognate language acquisition setting that while there are overall similarities between the L1 and L2 writing processes in this situation, L2 planning was more extensive in this situation than in previous research and they make a case for looking at the acquisition of different languages in order to build a better understanding of writing strategies.

Building on the existing research on writing strategies, Amanda W. Brooks-Carson and Andrew D. Cohen examine the use of writing strategies by sixteen bilingual students in their study "Direct vs. translated writing: Strategies for bilingual writers." Although considerable research has examined writing strategies in a second language (e.g., Hatasa and Soeda in this volume), this study is unique in that it looks at the strategy use of students writing in their third language. Using multiple instruments, the authors are able to address both the raters' assessments of direct versus translated writing by the students and explore the strategies used by both English-Spanish and Spanish-English bilinguals at the university level. They argue that while both groups were scored higher on the direct writing task, differences in strategy use among the students exist.

The use of learning strategies and their effectiveness for adult native English speakers learning Mandarin Chinese classifiers is the focus of "Strategies for Learning Classifiers" by Jenny Yi-chun Kuo. Researchers have identified and classified learning strategies with regard to many learner and situational factors, with particular attention paid to strategies for learning vocabulary (e.g., Brown & Perry, 1991). Kuo's research extends this promising area of inquiry into territory not found in Indo-European languages: classifiers. She analyzes the use of shape classifiers by both NS and NNS of Mandarin, identifies four learning strategies use by L2 learners for these classifiers, and discusses whether their effects are beneficial for the task. More studies such as this are needed to inform language pedagogy.

Social Factors

Hiroko Furo's paper, "Listening responses in Japanese and US English: Gender and social interaction," sheds light on the listening behaviors of Americans and Japanese in oral social interaction, producing data useful for L2 learners. The study brings together several strands of research on listener responses in conversation: research on the types and frequency of listening behaviors produced in Japanese and American male-male and female-female conversations. "Listening responses," or "reactive tokens," consist of those verbal and nonverbal signals produced by a listener while an interlocutor is speaking, and are categorized into five types: backchannels, reactive expressions, collaborative finishes, repetitions, and laughter. Examples of each category in Japanese and English are provided, and gender differences are noted. Japanese female conversations had far more reactive tokens than any of the other conversions. In particular, Japanese women produced twice as many back-channels as Japanese men, five times as many as American women, and ten times as many as American men. American participants, on the other hand, used more reactive expressions than the Japanese participants, regardless of gender. The implications of these different conversational styles for cross-cultural communications and for classroom instruction are considered. This area of research sets an obvious agenda for SLA research which has not been explored: do L2 learners transfer native listening behaviors into their interactions with L2 speakers?

Udo Ohm's contribution, "Second language acquisition in terms of autobiographic narratives," advocates a non-empirical kind of research which examines in depth the second-language-learner's perspective on the necessarily highly individual and socially contextualized process of second-language acquisition. Ohm argues that the learner's interpretation of the longitudinal process of SLA as a part of the learner's daily life, as expressed in the autobiographical narrative, is a crucial piece of the SLA puzzle, in that it provides insight into the learner's beliefs about issues of changing identity and motivation, and can demonstrate the way in which SLA "must be analyzed in terms of the social environment in which it occurs." The paper, a case study of a Finnish woman who has lived in Germany for 27 years, illustrates the way in which this sort of data can illuminate our understanding of the process of SLA; it does this by providing information on the learner's perspective which is not available by means of more empirically-oriented methodologies. In particular, the study shows that what was important to this learner's development of L2 ability was her perception of whether her interlocutors listened to what she had to say: whether she had, in her words, "language power." She describes in detail interactions in the past where she felt interaction partners were unprepared to listen to her because she did not command a deeper knowledge of the language. Her need to be viewed by her interlocutors as a person who has something important to say motivated her to put in hard work in improving her ability to handle spoken German. It is interesting to consider the results of this study in light of discussions in Silver (this volume) about the competing roles of input, output and negotiation in fostering the process of SLA.

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