2nd Language Learning: BBS Call for Commentators

Stevan Harnad (harnad%cogsci.soton.ac.uk@UKACRL.BITNET)
Sat, 28 Oct 1995 18:07:16 GMT

This article has been accepted for publication in Behavioral and Brain
Sciences (BBS), an international, interdisciplinary journal providing
Open Peer Commentary on important and controversial current research in
the biobehavioral and cognitive sciences.

Commentators must be current BBS Associates or nominated by a current
BBS Associate. To be considered as a commentator for this article, to
suggest other appropriate commentators, or for information about how to
become a BBS Associate, please send email to:

bbs@soton.ac.uk or write to:

Behavioral and Brain Sciences
Department of Psychology
University of Southampton
Highfield, Southampton

To help us put together a balanced list of commentators, please give
some indication of the aspects of the topic on which you would bring
your areas of expertise to bear if you were selected as a commentator.
An electronic draft of the full text is available for inspection by
anonymous ftp (or gopher or world-wide-web) according to the
instructions that follow after the abstract.


Samuel David Epstein
(Harvard University),

Suzanne Flynn
(Massachusetts Institute of Technology),

Gita Martohardjono
(Queens College and The Graduate Center, CUNY)

KEYWORDS: Language acquisition, Second Language learning,
Functional categories, Universal Grammar, Critical periods,
Parameter setting, Morphology, Psycholinguistics, Problem
solving, Competence vs. performance, Innateness,

ABSTRACT:To what extent, if any, does Universal Grammar (UG)
constrain second language (L2) acquisition? This is not only an
empirical question, but one which is currently investigable. In
this context, L2 acquisition is emerging as an important new
domain of psycholinguistic research. Three logical
possibilities have been articulated regarding the role of UG in
L2 acquisition: The first is the no-access hypothesis that no
aspect of UG is available to the L2 learner. The second is the
partial access hypothesis that only L1-instantiated principles
and L1-instantiated parameter-values of UG are available to the
learner. According to the third, called the full access
hypothesis, UG in its entirety constrains L2 acquisition. We
argue that there is no compelling evidence to support either of
the first two hypotheses. Moreover, we provide evidence
concerning functional categories in L2 acquisition consistent
with the claim that UG is fully available to the L2 learner. We
try to clarify some of the currently unclear theoretical issues
connected with positing UG as an explanatory theory of second
language acquisition (SLA) and we investigate certain crucial
methodological questions involved in experimentally testing the
role of UG in SLA. We close with a set of experimental results
of our own.

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