Age of onset and nativelikeness in a second language: Listener perception versus linguistic scrutiny by
Niclas Abrahamsson and Kenneth Hyltenstam Stockholm University Reviewed by Krishnaveni & Nur Aida

Keywords • • • • • • • Age of Onset = AO Critical Perios Hypothesis = CPH Nativelikeness L1 = Spanish L2 = Swedish Grammaticality Judgment Test = GJT Voice Onset Time = VOT 2 .

& Ladefoged.Stimulus sentences . 1999.Concept of nativelikeness .INTRODUCTION & RESEARCH PROBLEM PREVIOUS RESEARCH Methods tested . Epstein. Seliger.Native control speakers Conclusion: Results vary enormously SUPPORT Birdsong. Eubank & Gregg. Schachter. Krashen.Phonetic study . 5% Lenneberg’s CPH PRESENT STUDY 3 Methodological features .In-depth scrutiny of nativelikeness 3 . 1975 Selinker’s (1972) claim of ‘absolute success’ in adult SLA.Screening of participants . 1996. 1989 .GJT AGAINST Bley-Vroman. 1999. Flynn. 1989: UG paradigm. & Martohardjono.Pronunciation . 2005a.

• Research questions a) Do late L2 learners (adolescent & adult) exist who are perceived as native speakers?(Part I) b) Are most early L2 learners (child) ultimately perceived as native speakers? (Part I) c) Do late L2 learners exist who are nativelike when scrutinised in details? (Part II) d) Are most early L2 learners ultimately nativelike when scrutinised in detail? (Part II) 4 .Research Questions • Research aim To identify individuals who would potentially constitute the evidence necessary to reject the Critical Period Hypothesis.

– Element of ‘perceived nativelikeness’ was used to select participants for the second part of the study 5 . identified through newspaper advertisements and telephone interview (recorded) – Include 20 native speakers as control group Experiment – Native judges judged the recordings based on overall impression on speaker’s status as native/nonnative speaker of Swedish.Data Collection Procedure • Part I: Perceived Nativelikeness Participants – 195 L2 speakers of Swedish – Respondents had to meet 6 criteria.

result 6 .

but article only reported 10. speech reception. morphosyntax & formulaic language.Data Collection Procedure • Part II: Scrutinised Nativelikeness Participants – 41 individuals from the Part 1: 195 L2 speakers who achieved high score in Part 1 of the research and met most of the 6 criteria (15 native speakers were included) – Each participant tested individually in a sound-treated room. 7 . 4-hour test Instruments – Actual tests included 20 different instruments for language testing and speech elicitation. which cover speech production.

Part 2 Tests Instrument 1 2 Task/test Production task VOT Categorical Perception task Underpinning Theories Lisker. Abramson (1964) 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Babble noise White noise GJT Auditory GJT Writing GJT reaction time Cloze Idioms proverbs Bradlow & Bent (2002) & others Abrahamsson &Hyltenstam (2008) McNamara (2000) Wray (2002) 8 .

result 9 .

10 . • Only 2 possibly 3 participants performed within the range of native speakers on all 10 measures (learners’ AOs were 3. only a few childhood learners exhibited nativelikeness results in all tests (p.Result • No ceiling effect. 7 & 8 years) • Of the late 10 learners. even native speakers did not score high in some tests. therefore making the methods reliable. 35). • Researchers concluded that there’s no evidence of actual nativelikeness among late learners. 1 performed within the range of native speakers on 7 measures.

Result • Close to zero probability – late L2 learner mastering all linguistic aspects of L2 language • Only a myth – L2 learning that begins in childhood will easily. • Early AO of acquisition is necessary although not sufficient requirement for nativelike ultimate attainment in an L2 11 . automatically and inevitable result in nativelikeness.

Insight • Study is very comprehensive . our pursuit of proficiency/fluency or nativelikeness? 12 . covers all aspects of nativelikeness. 1992). all limitations of previous studies are addressed. no real disadvantage in starting to learn L2 late either • Its implication to the M’sian context – English being L2. this has been cited in ‘English as a Lingua Franca in ASEAN’ by Andy Kirkpatrick (2010) in support for varieties in English pronunciation in respect to speakers in The Outer Circle (Malaysia is one) and Expanding Circle (Kachru. • In terms of New Englishes. sophisticated& stringent. Interesting to see if same result with other L1-L2s. starting early does not guarantee nativelike speech. • Implications: In terms of teaching.

Insight • Not monolithic: one can be nativelike in pronunciation. – Recall details as opposed to gist. For example. • Have to consider the appropriate population: those who have had years of interaction with language. • L2 learning ability decline throughout life due to -Biology Age-related changes in cognitive processing. but not syntax (or vice versa). 13 . decreasing ability to: – Encode new information.

not failures to learn. It is generally accepted that some L2 performance that differ from those of monolinguals is artifacts of bilingualism. • There are more chances to attain nativelikeness for early learners as they will be able to use the target language widely without inferior complex. as assumed under the CPH/L2 acquisition.(more time to use the language as they learn it earlier) • Non-nativelike performance is not necessarily indicative of compromised language learning abilities. 14 .Insight • Not all departures from native likeness are indicative of defective language learning mechanism.

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