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Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 2012, 34, 187214.

doi:10.1017/S0272263112000022

AGE OF ONSET AND NATIVELIKE


L2 ULTIMATE ATTAINMENT
OF MORPHOSYNTACTIC AND
PHONETIC INTUITION

Niclas Abrahamsson
Stockholm University

Research has consistently shown there is a negative correlation between age of onset (AO) of acquisition and ultimate attainment (UA) of
either pronunciation or grammar in a second language (L2). A few
studies have indeed reported nativelike behavior in some postpuberty
learners with respect to either phonetics/phonology or morphosyntax,
a result that has sometimes been taken as evidence against the critical
period hypothesis (CPH). However, in the few studies that have employed a wide range of linguistic tests and tasks, adult learners have
not exhibited nativelike L2 proficiency across the board of measures,
which, according to some, suggests that the hypothesis still holds. The
present study investigated the relationship between AO and UA and
the incidence of nativelikeness when measures of phonetic and grammatical intuition are combined. An additional aim was to investigate
whether children and adults develop the L2 through fundamentally different brain mechanismsnamely, whether children acquire the
language (more) implicitly as an interdependent whole, whereas
adults learn it (more) explicitly as independent parts of a whole.

This study is part of the research program High-Level Second Language Use, funded by
the Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation (grant no. M2005-0459). The author wishes
to thank all the 770-something persons who initially volunteered, and in particular the 220
who were eventually selected as participants for the study. Thanks also go to research
assistants Linda Martins and Helne Norstedt for doing an impeccable job with the data
collection, and Helne also with the VOT analyses. Im deeply grateful to my colleagues
Professor Kenneth Hyltenstam and Associate Professor Emanuel Bylund for their feedback on an earlier draft of the manuscript, and also to Lamont Antieau, who checked and
corrected my English writing in no time at all.
Address correspondence to: Niclas Abrahamsson, Centre for Research on Bilingualism,
Stockholm University, SE 106 91 Stockholm, Sweden; e-mail: niclas.abrahamsson@biling.su.se.
Cambridge University Press 2012

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A central issue in linguistics and SLA theory is why language acquisition


seems to become more difculteven impossible, according to some
researcherswith age. After some 45 years of intense empirical research
and scientic debate, the question of why children are more successful
language acquirers than adults, and whether and why adult (or late) second language (L2) learners inevitably fall short of nativelikeness, still
engages many students of language development, language learning, and
language teaching.
The general theoretical context for this research has been Lennebergs (1967) critical period hypothesis (CPH), which predicts that normal language acquisition from mere language exposure is no longer
possible after a certain age. In Lennebergs specic hypothesis, 1213
years were established as the critical age because, at the time, it was
believed that puberty co-occurred with the maturation of the brain. For
Lenneberg, the brains maturation was manifested by its lateralization,
after which cerebral exibility, or plasticity, seemed to become signicantly reduced.
However, brain lateralization as a sign of maturation was soon the
target of serious criticism by numerous researchers, not least of all
when the lateralization process was found to be completed much earlier
than at puberty (see, e.g., Krashen, 1973). Additionally, the relevance of
puberty has been questioned frequently with reference to its elusiveness, variability, and relativity as a concept. Although ages 1213 still
appear often in SLA research, either as an observed cutoff point in
studies of nativelike L2 ultimate attainment (UA; e.g., Abrahamsson &
Hyltenstam, 2008, 2009) or as an a priori dividing point in studies comparing early and late learners (e.g., Flege, Yeni-Komshian, & Liu, 1999;
Montrul & Slabakova, 2003; van Boxtel, Bongaerts, & Coppen, 2005; van
Wuijtswinkel, 1994; White & Genesee, 1996), lower ages of rst exposure, such as 67 years, are sometimes mentioned as the maximum age
if nativelike prociency is to be expected as the typical outcome (e.g.,
Hyltenstam, 1992; Johnson & Newport, 1989; Long, 1990). Some authors
even suggest a pattern of L2 UA without a plateau and instead with a
linear rather than nonlinear function of maturation from birth up to puberty or perhaps even to the midteens (Birdsong, 1999; Hyltenstam &
Abrahamsson, 2003b). Additionally, neurocognitive correlates other
than lateralization have been suggested, one of the most interesting so
far being that of sequentially scheduled myelination processes that
seem to correlate amazingly well with stages of rst language (L1) development (e.g., Pulvermller & Schumann, 1994).
Because the levels of UA among children and adults in the L2 have
been shown to clearly differ from each other, both in relative terms (UA
is higher in child learners than in adult learners) and in absolute terms
(nativelike UA only seems to develop in child learners), a closely related research question has been whether children and adults actually

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use fundamentally different cognitive (or brain) mechanisms when approaching a new language. Some researchers (e.g., Bley-Vroman, 1989;
DeKeyser, 2000; Paradis, 2004, 2009) hold that even though children,
within the critical period, acquire language automatically, incidentally,
and implicitly from spoken (or signed) input via an innate and specialized capacity for doing so (e.g., through a language-acquisition device
or universal grammar, as proposed by Chomskyan linguists), adults, or
postcritical period learners (including most adolescents), must instead
learn the new language through a conscious effort, intentionally and
explicitly, using general cognitive learning strategies, often via formal
instruction. According to this view, the neurocognitive system responsible for general cognition is not optimized for handling natural (spoken
or signed) linguistic data in the same way as the innate language acquisition mechanism is, which is why most adults typically end up as nonnativelike speakers of their L2. In other words, the outcome of much of
adult learning is explicit knowledge of grammar and pronunciation,
something that is very difcult to use in normal language production
and perception, whereas children primarily acquire implicit competence
that is, morphosyntactic and phonetic intuitionwithin the target
language (similar or even identical to that of children acquiring a L1).
The division between language-specic and general cognition may also
explain how some extremely rare adult learners in fact approach
nativelike levels in a L2namely by making use of an unusually high aptitude for language learning, a trait that most researchers claim belongs to
the general cognitive system (see DeKeyser, 2000; DeKeyser & LarsonHall, 2005; Paradis, 2009; however, for alternative interpretations, see
Abrahamsson & Hyltenstam, 2008; Carroll, 1973; Ioup, Boustagui, El Tigi, &
Moselle, 1994).
The present study investigated, rst, the relationship between AO
and UA in Spanish-speaking learners of Swedish as a L2 and, second, the
incidence of nativelikeness in the areas of grammar and phonology,
with the use of tests of grammatical and phonetic intuition. The study
also investigated whether children and adults approach the task of
language acquisition in fundamentally different ways, that is, whether
they acquire the language implicitly as an interdependent whole or learn
it explicitly as independent parts of a whole (see Paradis, 2004, 2009).
THEORETICAL AND EMPIRICAL BACKGROUND
To date, it is possible to identify at least three main approaches in SLA
research to the behavioral study of age effects, all of which have been
used to draw indirect conclusions about maturational constraints and
the CPH. The focus of attention has been either on (a) the relationship
between learners AO and UA in the L2, (b) the relationship between AO

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and nativelike UA, or (c) the relationship between AO and the very
process leading to a learners UA. What these approaches have in
common is that, in one way or another, they focus on the learners AO
in relation to their UA of the L2that is, the different levels of prociency that are eventually reached by learners as a result of their starting
to learn the language at different ages.

Age of Onset and Ultimate Attainment


In the 1970s, some researchers (e.g., Snow & Hoefnagel-Hhle, 1977,
1978) investigated differences in the rate of acquisition of early and late
learners. Because late learners were found to progress faster in the initial phases of L2 development, the conclusion was that the advantage
that children held over adults in L2 learning was a myth and that the
CPH (or at least Lennebergs version of it) must therefore be rejected.
Later, in a review of the research up to that point, Krashen, Long, and
Scarcella (1979) brought some order among age studies: They demonstrated that it was only short-term studiesthat is, those studies with
a focus on the initial rate of acquisitionthat exhibited an older-learner
advantage, whereas all long-term studiesthat is, those investigating
their participants AO of acquisition in relation to their UA in the
L2pointed to an unquestionable early-learner advantage; most importantly, Krashen and colleagues (see also Long, 1990, 2005) concluded
that only long-term studies had any relevance for the CPH.
A large number of studies have compared the UA of groups of early
and late L2 learners (e.g., Asher & Garca, 1969; Bialystok & Miller,
1999; DeKeyser, 2000; Flege et al., 1999; Johnson & Newport, 1989;
Munro & Mann, 2005; Patkowski, 1980). In every case, such studies
have demonstrated a strong negative correlation between L2 learners
AO of acquisition and some measure of their L2 prociencygrammatical,
phonological, or even both. For example, in the seminal study by
Johnson and Newport (1989), in which the intuition of English
grammar (operationalized as the scores on a grammaticality judgment test [GJT]) of 46 Korean and Chinese long-term residents in the
United States was correlated with the participants age of arrival in
the country, showed (a) that there was a strong, negative correlation
between AO and GJT scores among the early starters (AO 315;
r = .87, p < .01) with little individual variation; (b) that very early starters
(AO 37) invariably performed like native control participants; and (c) that
the negative correlation between AO and GJT scores disappeared
(i.e., GJT scores could no longer be predicted from AO) after AO 15
(r = .16, p > .05) and was instead replaced by great individual variation. Despite much criticism and some indisputable methodological

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shortcomings, the results of Johnson and Newport must still be seen


as fairly robust today, insofar as no study has ever been able to show
an entirely different AO function, although the exact correlation coefcient has varied between studies, as has the locus of any cutoff point
on the AO continuumvery much depending on the focus of the
study. Furthermore, the Johnson and Newport study showed that no
other emotional or experiential factors could account for the variation in the results, and as yet, no other study has with any conviction
demonstrated strong correlations between UA and independent variables alternative to AO, such as length of residence in the host country, age at testing, educational level, formal L2 studies, patterns or
frequency of language input and use, and motivational, attitudinal,
or affectional (etc.) factors.

Age of Onset and the Incidence of Nativelikeness


Another approach to investigating the CPH, or the age factor in general,
has been to identify postpubescent or adult L2 learners who, despite a
late start, perform like child L2 learners or native speakers on a certain
test of L2 prociency. The rationale behind this approach is that if it
could be shown that individuals with a nativelike command of the L2
exist despite having learned it after the closing of an assumed critical
period, then there can be no such periodat least not in the usual,
biological sense. Coppieters (1987) investigated a group of highly
successful and highly educated learners of French as a foreign language
(FL), all of whom had no obvious foreign accent. However, despite their
apparent nativelike command of French, the results of a semanticsyntactic judgment test showed that their overall results were signicantly lower than the results of a native-speaker control group, and
recorded spontaneous speech revealed that these learners produced
errors on features that were mastered in the judgment test. In contrast,
in a replication of the Coppieters study, Birdsong (1992) identied 15
out of 20 late FL learners of Frenchall highly selected for potential
nativelikenesswho performed within the native-speaker range on a
GJT. Additionally, several replications of the Johnson and Newport
study have reported on some late learners whose grammaticality judgment scores fall within the range of native controls (e.g., Birdsong &
Molis, 2001; Flege et al., 1999). In the area of phonology and pronunciation, studies by Bongaerts and his colleagues targeted both highly advanced FL university students (see Bongaerts, 1999, for an overview) and
immersed adult L2 learners of Dutch in the Netherlands (Bongaerts, Mennen, & van der Slik, 2000). In these studies, recorded sentences read
aloud by the participants (as well as by native-control participants)

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were presented to panels of native judges who rated the pronunciation


of these speakers on a 5-point scale (e.g., from very strong accent; denitely a nonnative speaker to no foreign accent at all; denitely a native
speaker); the result of these studies has been that a small subset of
participantstypically one or two individualspass for native speakers
(see also Moyer, 1999, for similar results).
Although these learners should indeed be seen as extremely procient L2 speakers, their apparently nativelike behavior is invariably revealed as being less than nativelike when scrutinized in greater detail.
The rst study to clearly illustrate this was Ioup and colleagues (1994),
in which the UA of two extremely successful adult learners of L2 Egyptian Arabic, Julie and Laura, was investigated in terms of spontaneous,
oral production, dialect differentiation, and grammatical intuition. In
the production task and the two tests of Arabic dialect differentiation,
both learners performed within the range of a native-speaker control
group. However, even though both learners scored high on the three
tests of grammatical intuition, their performance was significantly
below that of the native controls. In a similar manner, Hyltenstam
and Abrahamsson (2003) and Abrahamsson and Hyltenstam (2009)
showed that all the adolescent and adult L2 learners of Swedish in
these studies, although sounding nativelike in everyday conversation,
performed signicantly below the native-speaker range when their
phonological, perceptual, grammatical, lexical, and other L2 abilities
were investigated in detail. In fact, so far no study relying on a multivariate test design (including challenging tests and tasks, not just tests of
very basic linguistic structures and trivial features) has been able to
describe an adult L2 learner who, in every relevant respect, exhibits a
L2 prociency that is fully comparable to that of native speakers. This
is why some researchers prefer to use the term near-native rather than
nativelike when characterizing such learners (e.g., Abrahamsson &
Hyltenstam, 2008, 2009; Hyltenstam & Abrahamsson, 2003a, 2003b;
Long & Robinson, 1998).

Age of Onset and Implicit Acquisition versus Explicit Learning


A third way of investigating child-adult differences in L2 acquisition has
been to focus on how differently aged learners arrive at their L2 knowledge. Do they learn the L2 through the same or different brain mechanisms? Is their ultimate L2 prociency qualitatively the same or different
in terms of origin, emergence, and representation? According to BleyVromans fundamental difference hypothesis (FDH), children and adults
develop their L2 in fundamentally different ways: Whereas children
make use of their innate and domain-specic language acquisition

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mechanisms, adults no longer have access to such mechanisms and instead must rely on domain-general learning strategiesthat is, strategies
belonging to the general cognitive system that are used for all kinds of
learning and not language acquisition specically. In Paradiss (2004,
2009) theory of L2 acquisition and bilingualism, L1 children and early L2
learners engage almost solely in incidental acquisition, which arises
through procedural memory and leads to implicit competence (or linguistic intuition). Adolescent and adult L2 learners, on the contrary,
who can no longer build new procedural representations to the same
extent as children, learn the L2 intentionally and have to rely on declarative memory, which leads to explicit competence (or metalinguistic
knowledge, in Paradiss terminology). Incidental acquisition should affect the whole language system, and different parts of the system should
thus develop simultaneously and unconsciously, whereas intentional
learning should affect mostly those parts of the L2 in which the learner
received explicit instruction and in which he or she took a special
interest.
These issues have not been investigated, let alone corroborated, in
any direct empirical way; rather, they have been explored indirectly
through studies of language learning aptitude. Paradis (2009) claimed
that some rare [adult] L2 speakers may achieve native-like prociency
. . . but by other means (p. 118), and DeKeyser (2000) and Abrahamsson and Hyltenstam (2008) were able to show that late learners with
nativelike performances on various aspects of the L2 also perform well
on standardized aptitude tests, which indicates that they draw heavily
on general cognitive learning abilities (i.e., declarative memory, in Paradiss terms) to compensate for the loss of (innate) specic language
acquisition mechanisms (or procedural memory, in Paradiss theory).
Early learners, in contrast, are not dependent on declarative memory or
any kind of heightened cognitive ability (or aptitude)they acquire the
L2 successfully through the availability of procedural memory alone.
According to Paradis, acquisition via procedural memory is available
to everyone up to about 5 years of age, after which the use of procedural memory to acquire language rapidly declines and individuals
rely on declarative memory (p. 118). He further states that some implicit linguistic competence in L2 can probably be acquired [by adults]
in certain aspects of linguistic structure (syntax, morphology, phonology, in that order of probability) though not completely at any
level (p. 118) and that the use of declarative memory to compensate
for gaps in L2 implicit competence is reected in the considerable
inter-individual variability in attainment between [adult] L2 learners
(p. 118). If Paradis is correct, evidence should be found that adults
learning of different aspects of the L2 is more sporadic, unsystematic,
and fragmented, whereas children automatically and systematically
develop aspects of all linguistic levels at the same time. Paradis (2009)

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states that the availability of procedural memory for acquiring


language as a whole decreases with age (p. 24). This means that the
child learner unconsciously and incidentally approaches the L2 as an
interconnected system (i.e., as a language), whereas the adult learner
treats the different levels and sublevels of the L2 as independent puzzles, some of which the learner can choose to focus on in depth, and
some of which canconsciously or unconsciouslybe disregarded as
either uninteresting, unnecessary, or unlearnable, if not left entirely
unnoticed.

Aims and Hypotheses of the Present Study


This study investigated the UA of grammatical and phonetic intuition by Spanish-speaking L2 learners of Swedish, all of whom were
long-term residents of Sweden and whose AO of L2 acquisition of
Swedish was between 1 and 30 years. Morphosyntactic intuition was
measured through an aural GJT and phonetic intuition by a test of
categorical perception of voice onset time (VOT). The aim of the
study was to add to the current knowledge on the relationship
between AO and UA, the relationship between AO and the incidence
of nativelike UA, and, finally, the relationship between AO and the
underlying processes of language learningthat is, whether children and adults use fundamentally different mechanisms when
acquiring a language. With these aims in mind, hypotheses 13 were
formulated:
1. Age of onset will be the strongest predictor of UA for both morphosyntactic
and phonetic intuition. More specically, signicant differences in mean results between native speakers, early L2 learners, and late L2 learners, as well
as strong negative correlations between AO and UA, are expected for both
GJT and VOT; weak or no correlations are expected between UA and the L2
participants present age (AGE), length of residence in Sweden (LOR) or
amount of Spanish use (L1 USE).
2. (a) No late L2 learner will be found with nativelike results on both the morphosyntactic and the phonetic test.
(b) A majority of very early (i.e., preschool) L2 learners will have nativelike
results on both the morphosyntactic and the phonetic test.
(c) Very few, if any, very early L2 learners will be found with nonnativelike
results on both the morphosyntactic and the phonetic test.
(d) A majority of the late L2 learners will have nonnativelike results on both
the morphosyntactic and the phonetic test.
3. Independently of the absolute level of UA (i.e., no matter where on the interlanguage continuum a learners system has stabilized), grammatical and
phonetic intuition are expected to have developed simultaneously and to

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similar degrees in early L2 learners but not in late L2 learners. More specically, it is predicted that the GJT and VOT measures will correlate positively
for early learners only, not for late learners.

METHOD
Participants
The participants were recruited through a series of newspaper advertisements.1 From a pool of approximately 700 L1 Spanish speakers of L2
Swedish and approximately 70 native speakers (NSs) of Swedish who
volunteered, 200 L2 participants and 20 native controls were selected
for the study. The L2 participants were selected in such a way that they
were to be evenly distributed over an AO continuum ranging from 1 to
30 years. In other words, the sample consisted of six to eight participants at each AO.2 All participants age at the time of the study was 21 or
more (M = 40, range = 2163), their LOR in Sweden was at least 15 years
(M = 25, range = 1546), and they reported no signicant use of other
languages than Spanish or Swedish during childhood. The most common
country of origin was Chile (112 individuals), as the Chilean group is the
largest Spanish-speaking immigrant group in Sweden, followed by Peru
(22), Argentina (16), Spain (13), Colombia (12), Bolivia (8), Uruguay
(8), Guatemala (2), Mexico (2), Cuba (1), Ecuador (1), El Salvador (1), Nicaragua (1), and Panama (1). In other words, the great majority of the participants (n = 187) originated from a Latin American country. All
participants lived in or around the Stockholm area and had done so
during most of their time in Sweden. A senior high school diploma was
the lowest level of education, and the distribution of females and males
was 11783. The native Swedish control group was selected by matching
age at the time of the study (M = 41.2 years), sex (12 women, 8 men), and
educational level with the L2 group. No severe hearing impairments
were reported by any of the participants, which was conrmed through
hearing tests with an OSCILLA SM 910 screening audiometer, nor were
any other language-related challenges such as dyslexia or stuttering.
Because the aim of this study was to compare early and late learners,
the sample of 200 L2 participants was divided into two halves: one that
consisted of learners with AO 115 (n = 101) and one of learners with
AO 1630 (n = 99) (following the division between early and late
learners made by, e.g., DeKeyser, 2000; Johnson & Newport, 1989;
Patkowski, 1980). As can be seen in Table 1, the mean chronological age
at the time of the study was 3435 years in the early-learner group and
4647 years in the late-learner group, a difference that is statistically
signicant. Furthermore, there was a small yet statistically signicant

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Table 1. Background information (independent variables) on the 200


L2 speakers; comparisons between participants with AO 15 and 16
years (df = 198)
AO 115
(n = 101)
Independent variable
AGE (years)
LOR (years)
L1 USE (%)

AO 1630
(n = 99)

t test
(two-tailed)

SD

SD

34.4
26.2
25.0

7.5
6.2
18.2

46.7
23.4
28.1

7.0
6.2
18.7

11.9
3.26
1.18

< .0001
= .0013
= .24, ns

Note. AGE = chronological age; LOR = length of residence; L1 USE = L1 use.

difference concerning LOR in Sweden: 26 versus 23 years, respectively.


Self-reported daily use of Spanish (expressed in percentages) did not
differ signicantly between the groups: 25% versus 28%, respectively.
The fact that the groups differed in age at the time of the study was
unproblematic because there were no relevant reasons to believe that
age as such would have an impact on the participants L2 intuitions
(see results in MacKay, Flege, & Imai, 2006). In a similar manner, the
small difference in LOR should have no significant impact on the
participants L2 prociency (as evidenced by the partial correlations
in the Results section). The early AO group consisted of 60 women
and 41 men, and the late AO group of 57 women and 42 men, but according to a Chi2 test, the difference was not statistically signicant:
2(1, 200) = 0.07, p = .89.

Tests and Procedure


The tests reported on in this study, GJT and categorical perception of
VOT, were part of a larger set of tests that also included VOT production, other (global) pronunciation tasks (e.g., word-list reading and
story retelling), and a test of grammatical and semantic inferencing
skills as well as a battery of four different language aptitude tests. The
participants were tested individually for about 22.5 hr by a native
Swedish assistant, and they were paid SEK 100.00 (Swedish kronor) and
a lottery ticket worth SEK 25.00 (a total value of approximately $20.00).
The reason for choosing only two linguistic measures for the present study rather than reporting on the results of the whole test battery
was the following: A previous study (Abrahamsson & Hyltenstam, 2009)
demonstrated that, with a test battery consisting of a variety of different phonetic-phonological, morphosyntactic, and lexical-semantic

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measures (10 altogether), any advanced and apparently nativelike


adult L2 learner could be revealed as only supercially nativelike (or
near-native) compared to a group of NSs. In contrast, in the present
study, which focused on a normally distributed sample of learners
rather than systematically searching for exceptionally successful
learners, the purpose was to investigate whether two independent
and fairly disparate linguistic measuresone of phonetic intuition
and another of grammatical intuitionwould sufce to reveal the nonnative background of average postcritical period L2 learners.
Furthermore, the rationale behind choosing GJT data rather than spoken or written language production data, and data from a VOT perception test rather than the participants own manifestation of the voicing
contrast, was that this study aimed to investigate aspects of L2 speakers
passive, unconscious, and implicit knowledge of Swedish grammar and
pronunciation, without the need to draw indirect conclusions from
performance data. Implicit language knowledge in the present study is
equated with acquired, nonverbalized linguistic intuition, whereas
explicit language knowledge corresponds to learned and, to a large extent,
metalinguistic competence that can be verbally expressed by speakers.
The basic idea behind focusing on implicit rather than explicit knowledge is that implicit, unconscious, and incidental acquisition of language
is what the CPH is actually concerned with: Lenneberg (1967) stressed
that what disappears at around puberty is the ability to attain automatic
acquisition from mere exposure (p. 176), whereas the explicit language
learning that adults typically engage in through a conscious and labored effort (p. 176), successfully or not, lies outside the scope of the
CPH (see also discussion in DeKeyser, 2000).
Grammaticality Judgment Test (GJT). The auditory GJT (originally
developed by Abrahamsson & Hyltenstam, 2008, 2009) used in this study
included 80 sentences based on four morphosyntactic structures or features of Swedish grammar known to be particularly difcult for L2 learners:
(a) subject-verb inversion (i.e., V2), (b) reexive possessive pronouns,
(c) placement of sentence adverbs in restrictive relative clauses, and
(d) adjective agreement in predicative position (gender and number). Half
of the sentences were grammatically correct and half were grammatically
incorrect; faulty sentences contained only a single error. Each of these
grammatical categories was represented by 20 sentences, 10 of which were
ungrammatical (see the Appendix for examples of the sentences used).
The present GJT differed substantially from those used in previous
age studies (e.g., Bialystok & Miller, 1999; DeKeyser, 2000; Flege et al.,
1999; Johnson & Newport, 1989) and was originally designed to investigate near-native L2 speakers intuitions. Because the focus in studies
of very advanced or near-native L2 speakers should not be on what they
can do but rather on what they cannot do (Hyltenstam & Abrahamsson,

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2003a; Long, 1990), the test items consisted of sentences that were
quite long and complex. Given the fact that the participants in the present study had been living in the L2 environment for at least 15 years
(see 5 years in Johnson & Newport, 1989) and for 25 years on average,
it was decided that demanding test items would more accurately gauge
the participants L2 prociency than items of the kind used in earlier
studies (such as *Mary will goes to Europe next year, *When Sam will x
his car?; examples from Johnson & Newport, 1989), and ceiling effects
would thus be avoided, even among the NS controls. Additionally, the
use of a test with a high degree of difculty and cognitive load even for
NSs serves as a better means to distinguish between native and nearnative intuitions and between near-native and clearly nonnative intuitions as well as between different degrees of near-nativeness, and this
test can therefore be seen as a guarantee against conclusions based
on underanalyzed data (see Abrahamsson & Hyltenstam, 2008, 2009;
McDonald, 2006).
The stimulus sentences were recorded in an anechoic chamber by a
female NS of Stockholm Swedish. The sentences were played through
KOSS TX/PRO earphones in random order for all participants. Once a
given sentence was presented, the test taker was granted a maximum of
10 s to indicate whether he or she perceived the sentence as grammatically correct or incorrect. Responses were submitted by pressing a
green YES or a red NO button at any point during or after the sentence
presentation. The next sentence was loaded and presented once one of
the response buttons was pressed. If no response was submitted before
time expired, a new sentence was presented; these cases were analyzed
as incorrect responses. The test was designed and run in E-Prime v1.0
(Schneider, Eschman, & Zuccolotto, 2002a, 2002b) and took 1520
minutes to complete.
Categorical Perception of VOT. Voice onset time is dened as the
interval between the release burst of the stop and the onset of
glottal vibration (Lisker & Abramson, 1964, p. 389). Swedish (like
English) voiceless stops are produced as aspirated, long-lag stops
(with relatively long, positive VOT values), whereas their voiced
counterparts are realized as unaspirated short-lag stops (i.e., with
short, positive VOTs). In Spanish, on the contrary, voiceless stops
are realized as positive, short-lag stops, whereas voiced stops are
produced with prevoicing (or voicing lead). As shown in Figure 1,
this means that there is an overlap between the Swedish and Spanish
voicing systems, where Swedish voiced /b, d, / are more or less identical to Spanish voiceless /p, t, k/. Due to this crosslinguistic variation, L2 learners often experience difculty in accurately producing
and perceiving L2 stops. Late learners have been shown to either
transfer their native-language voice timing patterns to the L2 or, even

Age of Onset and Nativelike L2 Ultimate Attainment

199

Figure 1. Schematic representation of the VOT continuum, showing


the relationship between Swedish and Spanish stops, with overlap
between Swedish voiced and Spanish voiceless categories. 0 corresponds to the release of stop closure.

more frequently, produce stops with VOTs intermediate to the VOT


values of the L1 and L2. Early learners, however, often produce and
perceive L2 stops in a more nativelike manner (e.g., Abrahamsson,
Stlten, & Hyltenstam, in press; Flege, 1991; Stlten, 2005, 2006;
Williams, 1980).
The perception of stops has frequently been investigated with experiments of categorical perception. The results obtained from such experiments indicate that people typically separate an acoustic continuum
into distinct, language-specic phonetic categories by perceiving
sudden category shifts rather than continuous transitions between categories (e.g., Abramson & Lisker, 1973). This means that NSs of Spanish
and Swedish will have different loci on the VOT continuum concerning
where the voicing categories separate.
The present test, which measured the participants intuitions of
where on the VOT continuum the category shift from Swedish voiceless /p/ to voiced /b/ occurs, was based on the minimal word pair par
(pair or couple) and bar (bar, naked or bare, or carry PRET),
which had been recorded in an anechoic chamber by a native female
speaker of Swedish. Using the Soundswell software, a 5-ms-step VOT
continuum ranging from 60 to +90 ms was created (for details, see
Stlten, 2006; Stlten, Abrahamsson, & Hyltenstam, 2012). In a forcedchoice identication task, the stimuli were presented binaurally
through earphones (KOSS TX/PRO) at a comfortable listening level
and in random order for each listener. The participants were told
they were going to hear the words par and bar many times and in a
mixed order, and they were asked to indicate for each test item which of
the two words they heard. Each test item was presented with the carrier
phrase Nu hr du . . . Now you will hear . . ., and by pressing one of two
buttons, labeled PAR and BAR, respectively, the participants indirectly
indicated whether they perceived the initial stop as voiceless or voiced.
The test was designed and run in E-Prime (see previously) and took
about 5 min to complete. The average category crossover points were
calculated with the Probit Analysis function in SPSS.

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RESULTS
The Effect of AO on UA: Group Comparisons and Correlations
The results of the GJT and VOT test for the NSs, the early L2 learners
(AO 115), and the late L2 learners (AO 1630) are presented in Table 2.
The NS mean score on the GJT was 66 (out of 80), and 53 and 45 for
the early and late learners, respectively. A one-way ANOVA showed
that there were statistically signicant differences between the groups,
F(2, 220) = 82.68, p < .0001, and post hoc tests conrmed that the differences between adjacent groupsthat is, between the NSs and the early
L2 learners and between the early and late L2 learnerswere statistically
signicant, t = 7.33 and 7.81, respectively, p < .01 (using the Bonferroni
correction to adjust for multiple comparisons). The effect size of the NS
and early L2 group difference was very large (Cohens d = 1.65), whereas
the effect size of the difference between the two L2 groups was large
(d = 1.10). The mean crossover points on the VOT perception test were
+8.81 ms for the NS group, 2.40 ms for the early L2 group, and 9.72 ms
for the late L2 group. Again, an ANOVA test revealed statistically significant differences between groups, F(2, 215) = 32.97, p < .0001, and post
hoc tests revealed statistically signicant differences between the
NSs and early L2 learners, t = 4.56, and between the two L2 groups, 5.09,
p < .01 (with Bonferroni correction). Effect sizes of these differences
were large (d = 1.09) and medium (d = 0.73), respectively.
A more detailed representation of the age function is given in Figure 2,
in which (a) GJT scores and (b) VOT crossover points (in ms) have
Table 2. GJT mean scores and VOT mean crossover points (ms) of
NSs, L2 speakers AO 115, and L2 speakers AO 1630
Participant group

GJT score
M
SD
Range
VOT crossoveri
M
SD
Range

NSs
(n = 20)

Early L2 learners,
AO 115
(n = 101/100i)

Late L2 learners,
AO 1630
(n = 99/95i)

66
6.81
5676

53
8.81
3277

45
5.29
3157

+8.81
9.60
8 to +23

2.40
10.99
29 to +18

9.72
8.81
33 to +12

i Five participants (one in the AO 115 group and ve in the AO 1530 group) were removed from the
VOT data due to missing or uninterpretable data.

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201

Figure 2. GJT scores and VOT crossover points plotted against AO.

been plotted against the participants AOs. An initial visual inspection


of the data reveals an overall negative relationship between test results
and AO, and the regression lines suggest that such a relationship is
most prevalent on the left-hand sides of the scatter plots (i.e., for the
early learners), but not on the right-hand sides (i.e., the late learners).
These visual patterns are conrmed by the correlation coefcients
shown in Table 3 (to account for multiple correlations, checking four
independent variablesAO, LOR, L1 USE, and AGEthe Bonferroni
correction was used, and the level for these and upcoming correlations was set at p = .0125). The correlation between GJT and AO
for the whole learner sample (n = 200) was strong, r = .60 (Pearsons),
p < .001, whereas the correlation between VOT and AO (n = 195) was
medium strong, r = .47, p < .001. As shown, AO emerged as the strongest
predictor of the learners UA of grammatical and phonetic intuition,
and the correlations between GJT or VOT and any of the other three
independent variables (i.e., LOR, L1 USE, and AGE) were weak and
sometimes statistically nonsignicant (one apparent exception was
the AGE variable). When the two AO groups were analyzed separately,
it became clear that AO was a relevant predictor for the early-learner
group only; for the late-learner group, AO appeared to have had no
impact on their UA. The correlations between AO and GJT or VOT for
the early L2 group were strong, r = .58 and .51, respectively, p < .001,
whereas for the late L2 group, the correlation coefficients dropped
to weak and nonsignificant levels, r = .05 for GJT and .17 for VOT,
p higher than the level (.0125) in both cases. In fact, none of the other
independent variables correlated signicantly with the test results in
the late-learner group (again with the apparent exception of AGE, this
time only for VOT).

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Niclas Abrahamsson

Table 3. Simple correlations (Pearsons r) between GJT scoresVOT


crossover points and the independent variables AO, LOR, L1 USE, and
AGE
Correlation with
GJT score

Learner group
AO 130 n =

200/195i

AO 115 n = 101/100i

AO 1630 n = 99/95i

Correlation with
VOT crossoveri

Independent
variable

AO
LOR
L1 USE
AGE
AO
LOR
L1 USE
AGE
AO
LOR
L1 USE
AGE

.60
.26
.26
.38
.58
.27
.28
.14
.05
.04
.22
.01

< .001
< .001
< .001
< .001
< .001
< .01
< .01
= .163, ns
= .623, ns
= .694, ns
= .029, ns
= .922, ns

.47
.14
.21
.35
.51
.25
.31
.12
.17
.19
.07
.27

< .001
= .051, ns
< .01
< .001
< .001
< .0125
< .01
= .234, ns
= .1, ns
= .065, ns
= .5, ns
< .01

i Five participants (one in the AO 115 group and four in the AO 1530 group) were removed from the
VOT data due to missing or uninterpretable data.

It is often held that AO is confounded with other independent variables. For example, lower AOs tend to coincide with longer residence in
the new country, high amounts of L1 use are more common among late
learners, and AO generally correlates closely with participants ages at
the time of testing (see, e.g., Stevens, 2006). Therefore, it is often held
that it is difcult to decide whether the AO function should be explained
by maturation or by these other experiential factors that are hidden in
the AO complex. Indeed, as shown in Table 1, participants in the AO
115 group were signicantly younger than those in the AO 1630 group
(mean AGE = 34 vs. 46 years), and the AO 115 group had spent a
few more years in Sweden than the AO 1630 group (mean LOR = 26 vs.
23 years), although it should be noted that the amount of daily Spanish
use was the same for both AO groups. In fact, as shown in Table 4, AO,
LOR, and AGE tend to be interrelated in different ways, and AO and AGE
in particular were highly correlated (r = .75, p < .001). To tease apart the
different impacts of AO and the other independent variables, partial
correlations were performed, which removed the effect of the confounding variable. These are presented in Table 5. As can be seen, when
the effects of other independent variables are removed, AO clearly
emerges as the strongest variable, with strong and highly signicant
correlations with both GJT and VOTthis is especially true for the AO
115 group, which was described as the real locus of AO effects. Most

203

Age of Onset and Nativelike L2 Ultimate Attainment

Table 4.

AO
AGE
LOR
L1 USE

Correlations between independent variables


AO

AGE

LOR

L1 USE

1.00
.75
.25
.05

1.00
.41
.03

1.00
.03

1.00

importantly, the effect of AGE has now dropped to nonsignicant levels,


which is the case also for LOR and L1 USE, whereas the correlations
between AO and GJT or VOT remain more or less unaffected at a robust
.50 to .60 when the effect of confounding variables is removed. In contrast, none of the independent variables, including AO, can be used to
explain the test results of the AO 1630 grouphere, other (probably
individual) factors would account for the variation, such as language
aptitude, motivation, and formal instruction.

AO and the Incidence of Nativelike Results


As for the incidence of nativelikeness when the two measures of GJT
and VOT are combined and separated, respectively, Table 6 presents
the numbers and the percentages of L2 participants who performed
within the range of the 20 native control speakers on both, one, or none
of the two measures of linguistic intuition.3 A total of 30 participants
had results within the range of the 20 NSs on both GJT and VOT. More
than half (55%) of the participants with AO 15 had nativelike results on
both tests, whereas 28% of participants with AO 610 and only 9% of
those with AO 1115 did. More specically, most participants who
passed as NSs on both GJT and VOT had an AO between 1 and 6 years
(22 individuals; see the solid-line frame in Table 6), and none with nativelike results on both GJT and VOT had an AO beyond 13 years (see
the long, dotted-line frame).
From the opposite perspective, Table 6 also reveals that only two individuals, or 6%, of the 31 participants with AO 15 were nonnativelike
on both GJT and VOT, whereas the gure is 25% of those with AO 610.
For participants with AOs 1130, nonnativelike results on both GJT and
VOT ranged between 48% (AOs 1120) and 55% (AOs 2130). More specically, grammatical nonnativelikeness in combination with phonetic
nonnativelikeness was almost never the case for participants with AOs
16 (there were two exceptions at AOs 1 and 5; see the dashed-line
frame); however, nonnativelikeness on both GJT and VOT could be observed at all AOs beyond 6 years.4

LOR
L1 USE
AGE
LOR
L1 USE
AGE
LOR
L1 USE
AGE

.14
.29iii
.13
.26ii
.24
.23
.04
.24
.04

Independent variable
with AO removed
.57iii
.61iii
.52iii
.58iii
.57iii
.60iii
.05
.11
.06

AO with other
independent
variable removed
.03
.21ii
.00
.23
.28ii
.20
.21
.12
.22

Independent variable
with AO removed

ii

.45iii
.47iii
.34iii
.50iii
.49iii
.53iii
.19
.19
.04

AO with other
independent
variable removed

VOT crossoveri

Five participants (one in the AO 115 group and four in the 1530 group) were removed from the VOT data due to missing or uninterpretable data.
= p < .0125 (= Bonferronis corrected -level).
iii = p < .001.

AO 1630 n = 99/95i

AO 115 n = 101/100i

AO 130 n = 200/195i

Independent
variable

GJT score

First-order partial correlations of AO and other independent variables (LOR, L1 USE, AGE) with GJT-VOT

Learner group

Table 5.
results

204
Niclas Abrahamsson

Table 6. Number and percent nativelike individuals on both GJT and VOT, either GJT or VOT, and neither GJT nor
VOT at different AOs and at 5-year AO intervals; n = 195 (5 of the 200 participants removed because of technical or
instructional problems in the VOT task)

Age of Onset and Nativelike L2 Ultimate Attainment


205

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Niclas Abrahamsson

AO and the Relationship between GJT and VOT


The last data set to be presented has the potential of shedding some
light on the question of whether L2 speakers with different AOs have
approached the task of learning the new language via fundamentally
different learning mechanisms or cognitive processes. It was predicted
that, irrespective of the level of UA, the early learners would show evidence that their morphosyntactic and phonetic intuition had developed
together (simultaneously) as an interdependent whole, although this
would not necessarily be the case for late learners whose grammatical
and phonetic skills could have developed independently of each other.
This means that the GJT and VOT measures should be expected to correlate in the AO 115 group, but not in the AO 1630 group.
Figure 3 presents the correlations between GJT and VOT results. In
Figure 3a, all participants, including the NS group, are represented. It is

Figure 3. Scatterplots with Pearsons correlations between GJT and


VOT in (a) all participants (including the native speakers), (b) just the
native speakers, (c) just the late learners, and (d) just the early learners.

Age of Onset and Nativelike L2 Ultimate Attainment

207

possible to see that, in general, results on the GJT and the VOT do seem
to correlate (r = .48, p < .001). However, unless a test-wiseness effect was
involved, these two distinct measures should not be expected to correlate in NSs. That is, for a NS, who, by denition, has attained nativelike
prociency, a high result on a test of grammatical intuition should not
imply a highly positive crossover point on the VOT continuum for stop
consonants, nor should a negative VOT crossover point be expected to
be associated with low grammatical intuition. In other words, as soon
as two given linguistic features of the L1 have fully developed and
crossed the nishing line, it is no longer possible to predict that results
from tests of these features will correlateat least as long as there is no
causal relationship between them, which, of course, is not the case with
the morphosyntactic structures of the present GJT and the voicing contrast investigated with the VOT test. Only via snapshots of ongoing L1
or L2 acquisition, or through the observation of learner systems that
have stabilized somewhere along the interlanguage continuum, should
such a relation be present; once native prociency has been reached,
any variation in grammatical and phonetic abilities should be random.
Therefore, for the NSs high scores on the GJT and positive VOT crossovers would be expectedwith little individual variationbut not necessarily a correlation between the two measures. As can be seen in
Figure 3b, this is (in principle) what was found: Even though the total
variation was somewhat greater than expected (e.g., no NSs were actually expected to locate the mean crossover point on the negative side
of the VOT continuum), the plots are still gathered in the top-right corner of the gure, and no correlation between GJT and VOT was found
(r = .06, p = .80).
Turning next to Figure 3c, it is possible to see that the late-learner
plots are to be found at the bottom-left corner, indicating relatively low
GJT scores and relatively negative VOT crossover points, as presented
in previous sections. As expected, there was no correlation between the
two measures (r = .09, p = .39), possibly indicating that the learning of
grammatical aspects at a certain level does not automatically imply
learning of phonetic aspects at the same or even a similar level. On the
contrary, as the scatter plot shows, those late learners with the most
nativelike (i.e., positive) VOT crossover points also had low GJT scores
(close to chance level), whereas those with the highest GJT scores (at
around 55 to 57) also had negative VOTs.
Finally, in Figure 3d, the early learners have been extracted and
plotted separately. As expected, there was a positive (medium strong)
correlation between GJT scores and VOT crossover points (r = .44,
p < .001), which possibly indicates that grammatical and phonetic intuitions have developed simultaneously. The problem is, however, that
AO, which proved to have the strongest effect among the independent
variables on both GJT and VOT, is probably having an indirect effect on

208

Niclas Abrahamsson

this pattern as well; that is, it is not possible to be certain that the correlation between GJT and VOT is not just an artifact of the strong correlations between GJT and AO, and VOT and AO, respectively. In fact, a
partial correlation between GJT and VOT with the effect of AO removed
resulted in a much weaker correlation, r = .21, p = .04. Using the corrected (p = .0125), this result is not statistically signicant; it is only
signicant if the original level (p = .05) is used. It should be noted,
however, that despite the low correlation coefcient and low (or no)
statistical signicance, the AO 115 group was the only one among the
three participant groups to exhibit any kind of relationship between
GJT and VOT. At best, this may be an indication that different parts of
the L2 develop with different rates and even by different means in early
and late learnersat least, there is nothing in these data that would
speak against such an interpretation.
DISCUSSION
In hypothesis 1, it was predicted that AO would be the strongest predictor of UA of both morphosyntactic and phonetic intuitions. This prediction was borne out by the data: There were large and statistically
signicant differences in mean results between NSs, early L2 learners,
and late L2 learners on both the GJT and the VOT test as well as strong,
negative correlations between AO and UA among the L2 participants.
However, the AO effect was present in the early L2 group only, which is
in absolute agreement with previous studies, for example, Johnson &
Newport (1989), who found a strong correlation between AO and GJT
results up to the midteens on the AO continuum, but not beyond. The
present study also found correlations between UA and the independent
variables LOR, amount of L1 use, and current age, but these were significantly weaker than for AO or were statistically nonsignicant. In fact,
and also in full agreement with previous research, it could be shown
that when the effects of confounding variables were parceled out in the
correlational analyses, the impact of AO on UA was virtually unaffected,
whereas the effect of the other independent variables dropped considerably, often down to statistical nonsignicance.
In hypothesis 2, it was predicted that no participant with AOs beyond
puberty would be found with nativelike results on both the GJT and the
VOT test, whereas a majority of the early-childhood learners were predicted to have nativelike results on both tests. It was also predicted that
few, if any, early-childhood learners, but a majority of late learners,
would be found with nativelike results on neither of the tests. All aspects
of this hypothesis were conrmed by the results. The lowest AO in which
no participant was identied with nativelike results on both the GJT and
VOT tests was 12, and AO 13 was the last point on the continuum at

Age of Onset and Nativelike L2 Ultimate Attainment

209

which nativelike results on both tests were obtained. This means that
no completely nativelike behaviors were observed in this study among
L2 learners who began their L2 acquisition after the age of 13or after
puberty, in Lennebergs (1967) words. More than half of the learners
beyond this AO exhibited nonnativelike results on both the GJT and the
VOT test, whereas, obviously, the remaining late learners were nativelike on one of the measures. Furthermore, more than half of the participants who had begun their acquisition of Swedish between ages 1 and 6
exhibited nativelike results on both the grammatical and phonetic tests.
In principle, the rest of the early-childhood learners (i.e., AO 16) were
nativelike on at least one of the tests, and only two individuals in this
AO range were nonnativelike on both tests. These results suggest that
nativelikeness in both morphosyntactic and phonetic intuition is highly
probable if L2 acquisition starts in early childhood (AO 6), relatively
rare if it starts in later childhood (AO 713), and highly unlikely (or even
impossible) if rst L2 exposure occurs after puberty (AO > 13). Conversely, the data also show that nonnativelike intuition of both morphosyntactic and phonetic features is highly improbable if L2 acquisition
begins during early childhood, relatively rare if it starts in later childhood, but quite common if it starts in the early teens or in adulthood.
The results are also in absolute agreement with our previous studies
and argumentation on AO and nativelike L2 UA, and they conrm the
absolute need for studies aimed at investigating the CPH through
the identication of nativelike late learners to employ several measures
(at least more than one), preferably representing several (and again, at
least more than one) linguistic levels (for discussion, see Abrahamsson &
Hyltenstam, 2009; Hyltenstam & Abrahamsson, 2003a, 2003b).
Finally, in hypothesis 3, it was predicted that the results on the GJT
and the VOT test would positively correlate with each other for early
learners only, but not for late learners (nor for NSs). Before discussing
the results, it is necessary to briey recapitulate the theoretical motivation for the hypothesis. Behind the prediction lies the assumption that
grammatical and phonetic intuitions should develop more or less simultaneously and to a similar degree if the language has been acquired
automatically, incidentally, and implicitly as an interdependent or interconnected whole, but not if it was learned consciously, intentionally,
and explicitly as independent, separate parts of a whole. This, in turn,
would potentially suggest that early and late L2 learners use fundamentally different systems: Although children automatically acquire the
morphosyntactic and phonetic-phonological system from mere exposure (Lenneberg, 1967, p. 176) through innate, domain-specic mechanisms (Bley-Vroman, 1989; DeKeyser, 2000) and by using mostly
procedural memory resources (Paradis, 2009), adults have lost most of
these abilities and instead must learn the L2 consciously, through formal instruction, and via their domain-general cognitive system, using

210

Niclas Abrahamsson

mostly declarative memory resources. The consequence is that early


learners develop implicit linguistic competence (or intuition) very similar to that of NSs, whereas adults typically end up with mostly explicit
(some of which can be equated with metalinguistic) knowledge, which
cannot be used as efciently for spontaneous and effortless language
production and perception.
The predictions of hypothesis 3 were at least partially borne out by
the data, such that the only group that showed any sign of a positive
correlation between the two tests was the early-learner group. In both
the native group and the late-learner group, the GJT and VOT results
were completely unrelated. However, the initially medium-strong correlation dropped considerably to a weak correlation when the confounded
impact of AO was removed. Admittedly, whereas the age function
(hypothesis 1), in terms of strong correlations between AO and different
measures of UA, can be easily demonstrated using an experimental data
set, as in the present case, and whereas the incidence of nativelike L2
behavior (hypothesis 2) is easily quantied before and after a certain
AO, the investigation of possibly different acquisition or learning
systems by L2 speakers with different AOs, all of whom were in the actual process of learning a long time ago (the mean LOR in this study was
2425 years), is a far more difcult enterprise. Therefore, the empirical
results as well as their theoretical interpretation are of a more suggestive and tentative nature. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the correlational pattern of the early-learner group was in accordance with the
predictions, although its strength clearly left more to be desired.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
In conclusion, this study conrmed previous research concerning the
relationship between AO and UA in L2 acquisition as well as that between AO and the attainment of nativelike L2 competence (or intuition).
First, strong, negative correlations between AO and UA were demonstrated for both grammatical and phonetic intuition as measured by a
GJT and a test of categorical perception of VOT, but only among early
learners (AO 115); among late learners (AO 1630), AO was no longer
predictive of UA (hypothesis 1). Second, nativelike intuitions of both
grammatical and phonetic aspects ceased to occur at age 13, and the
probability of performing within the native-speaker range on both these
aspects of the L2 was greatest among those with AO 16 (hypothesis 2).
Finally, the results also showed that only the early L2 learners showed
any sign of having developed both grammatical and phonetic aspects of
the L2 simultaneously, possibly indicating that these learners have acquired the L2 unconsciously, incidentally, and implicitly through domain-specic (i.e., linguistic) acquisition mechanisms. The late learners,

Age of Onset and Nativelike L2 Ultimate Attainment

211

in contrast, showed no sign of having developed grammatical and phonetic aspects simultaneously, possibly indicating that their approach
to the task of learning a L2 had been more conscious, intentional, and
explicit through the use of domain-general (i.e., cognitive) learning
strategies (hypothesis 3).
The conrmations of hypotheses 1 and 2 underscore the robustness
of earlier research results that concern the relationship between AO
and UA in L2 acquisition. As such, they are also in agreement with the
predictions made by Lennebergs (1967) or Johnson & Newports (1989)
versions of the CPH. However, the conclusions concerning hypothesis
3 necessarily remain more speculative in nature: Not only did this study
fail to present statistically signicant results, but even the rationale
behind the methodology employed to investigate this hypothesis
may have been less solid than for the previous hypotheses. Nevertheless
(or even because of this), the hypothesis that children and adults acquire
or learn L2s in fundamentally different ways, using fundamentally different
cognitive (or brain) mechanisms, should be highly prioritized in future
CPH-related research. There is already an entirely clear answer to the
question of whether children are more successful learners of L2swhat
still remain are answers to the question why this is so.
NOTES
1. The advertisements appeared in free newspapers (Punkt.SE, Metro, and Stockholm
City) distributed in the Stockholm public transportation system.
2. Exceptions were AO 3 (5 participants), AO 17 (2), AO 21 (4), and AO 22 (9).
3. As noted previously, a total of 5 participants were removed from the VOT results
because of missing or uninterpretable data, which resulted in a total of 195 participants
instead of 200.
4. One exception is AO 17, which can most certainly be explained by the fact that this
AO was lled by only 2 participants, both of whom were nativelike on either GJT or VOT.
Had the number of participants been similar to the other AOs (67 being the normal case),
one and probably several participants would have been expected to exhibit nonnativelike
results on both tests.
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Niclas Abrahamsson

APPENDIX
Four ungrammatical examples out of 80 grammaticality judgment items,
grouped by structure type, and with English translation. Target structures are in bold, and correct forms are given in brackets.
1. Subject-verb inversion (V2)
*Med tanke p att den hgkonjunktur landet gick mot var mycket tydlig man frstr
[frstr man] kapitalgarnas uppfattning gllande ekonomiska skyddstullar.

Given that the economic upturn the country was approaching was
very obvious, one understands the capitalists position regarding protectionist tolls.
2. Reexive possessive pronouns
*De mest rutinerade kroppsbyggarna sg till att sina [deras] benmuskler utvecklades i samma takt som vriga muskler.

The most experienced body builders made certain that their leg muscles developed at the same rate as their other muscles.
3. Placement of sentence adverbs in relative clauses
*Fartyget rammade en eka som styrmannen observerade inte [inte observerade]
p sin radar vilket ck katastrofala fljder.

The ship rammed a rowboat that the helmsman hadnt noticed on his
radar, which had catastrophic consequences.
4. Adjective agreement in predicative position (example: AGR-num, plural)
*Skjulen som varit skymda av den hga stenmuren och drfr inte existerat i folks
medvetande blev nu helt blottlagd [blottlagda].

The sheds that had been hidden by the high stone wall, and therefore
nonexistent in peoples consciousness, were now suddenly entirely
exposed.