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This article provides a comprehensive synthesis of research on language attrition to date, with a view to establishing a theoretically sound basis for future research in the domain of second language (L2) attrition. We identify the variables that must be tracked in populations who experience language loss, and we develop a general model for the assessment of the processes involved. This critical review suggests that future research in this domain should establish baselines for attainment against which to measure attrition, and that learners must be compared to themselves in longitudinal designs that involve periodic assessment of both linguistic and extralinguistic factors. In the proposed model, populations are defined as sets of variables, which are subject to change following shifts in discrete time periods in the general process of acquisition and attrition. A working model is elaborated for the assessment of L2 attrition and retention, which, we hope, might encourage additional work in this area.
This study contributes to a central debate within contemporary generative second language (L2) theorizing: the extent to which adult learners are (un)able to acquire new functional features that result in a L2 grammar that is mentally structured like the native target (see White, 2003). The adult acquisition of L2 nominal phi-features is explored, with focus on the syntactic and semantic reflexes in the related domain of adjective placement in two experimental groups: English-speaking intermediate (n = 21) and advanced (n = 24) learners of Spanish, as compared to a native-speaker control group (n = 15). Results show that, on some of the tasks, the intermediate L2 learners appear to have acquired the syntactic properties of the Spanish determiner phrase but, on other tasks, to show some delay with the semantic reflexes of prenominal and postnominal adjectives. Crucially, however, our data demonstrate full convergence by all advanced learners and thus provide evidence in contra the predictions of representational deficit accounts (e.g., Hawkins & Chan, 1997; Hawkins & Franceschina, 2004; Hawkins & Hattori, 2006).
This article presents new evidence from offline and online processing of garden-path sentences that are ambiguous between reduced relative clause resolution and main verb resolution. The participants of this study are intermediate and advanced German learners of English who have learned the language in a nonimmersed context. The results show that for second language (L2) learners, there is a dissociation between parsing mechanisms and grammatical knowledge: The learners successfully process the structures in question offline, but the online self-paced reading task shows different patterns for the L2 learners and the native-speaker control group. The results are discussed with regard to shallow processing in L2 learners (Clahsen & Felser, 2006). Because the structures in question differ in English and German, first language (L1) influence is also discussed as an explanation for the findings. The comparison of the three participant groups’ results points to a gradual rather than a fundamental difference between L1 and L2 processing.
This study tested the predictions of the revised hierarchical (RHM) and morphological decomposition (MDM) models with Arabic-English bilinguals. The RHM (Kroll & Stewart, 1994) predicts that the amount of activation of first language translation equivalents is negatively correlated with second language (L2) proficiency. The MDM (Frost, Forster, & Deutsch, 1997) claims that in nonconcatenative languages, including Arabic, activation spreads by morphological identity rather than orthographic similarity. To test these two models, native speakers of Arabic at two levels of English L2 proficiency completed a translation recognition task. In the critical conditions, the Arabic word was not the correct translation of the English word (shoulder-katif) but was orthographically related (shoulder-kahf “cave”), morphologically related but semantically opaque (shoulder-takaatuf “unity”), or semantically related (shoulder-raqaba “neck”). Results show more morphological- than orthographic-form interference for all participants, in line with the MDM. Contrary to the RHM, however, both proficiency groups experienced interference in the semantic condition as well as in the form conditions.