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Bookmark and Share Paper 1055

Is There a Fundamental Difference? The Availability of Universal Grammar in Child versus Adult Second Language Acquisition
John M. Stewart
308-314 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


The present study addresses the question of Universal Grammar availability in adult Second Language Acquisition within the framework of Bley-Vroman's Fundamental Difference Hypothesis, contributing new empirical evidence from second language acquirers of Swedish. Johnson and Newport (1989) showed a strong negative correlation between age of arrival in second language environments and ultimate attainment, supporting the Critical Period Hypothesis of Lenneberg (1967) in Second Language Acquisition. An especially cogent explanation of this phenomenon offered by Bley-Vroman (1990) was never adequately tested. Bley-Vroman's Fundamental Difference Hypothesis attributes the differences between child and adult language acquisition to adult learners' lack of direct access to the principles and parameters of Universal Grammar. The present study tests the Fundamental Difference Hypothesis by comparing longitudinal morpho-syntactic acquisition data from children versus adults (n = 9). Subjects comprise native speakers of Finnish and Iraqi Arabic. Each subject was recorded three times over the course of one year during free oral production of Swedish. The analysis focuses on the setting of parameters such as the Null Subject Parameter, with special attention paid to the transfer of native language parameter settings into the target language. The study concludes with the proposal that modified versions of the same study are necessary in order to determine more conclusively whether Universal Grammar is operational in particular subject groups.

Published in

Proceedings of the 6th Generative Approaches to Second Language Acquisition Conference (GASLA 2002): L2 Links
edited by Juana M. Liceras, Helmut Zobl, and Helen Goodluck
Table of contents
Printed edition: $340.00