Journal of Alessandro (help, please)

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Sep 29, 2018 10:29
Journal of Alessandro (help, please)

This week I was impressed with the theoretical contribution to the field of SLA made by S. Montrul with her article “What can early bilingual tell us?”. The conclusions she made on the early bilingualism phenomenon have the advantage of taking into account different theoretical approaches, like those on Chomsky and De Keyser, and the most recent field studies comparing performance and competence in early and late bilingualism.
The aim of this paper is to support the fundamental difference hypothesis made by Bley-Vroman which claims that innate language system that children use to acquire language is no longer active in adults. This should be the consequence of the modularity of our brain, which has a specific domain cognitive mechanism active in childhood for acquiring one or more language that get replaced by a more general cognitive domain in adulthood. Fossilization is the name of the process of losing this particular -specific for language- cognitive domain.
Many research have proved the difference between children and adult language acquisition. Children have seemed to be more likely to develop a native-like proficiency even when they have abandoned the first language in early childhood in favor of another one. It is the case of Heritage Speakers who develop an incomplete acquisition due to a switch to a language spoken by the majority.
The author of the paper analyzed research that compare the difference linguistic performance of heritage speakers with incomplete acquisition and second language learners that acquired the language in a formal setting like school or University. The results show that heritage speakers outperform second language learners in almost every case analyzed. Some doubts arise only for their competence on written tasks where second language learners can do better than heritage speakers. This fact can be due to the diversity between learning and acquiring. Second language learners do good when they can control they language they produce as they have explicit knowledge of it while heritage speaker perform better in oral production.
Another significant doubt on the theoretical framework can arise from the syntax competence.. Overall heritage speakers handle syntax rules better than second language learner. However this doesn`t happen when they need to apply a syntactic rule that require a strong lexical knowledge. In this case it seems that their uncomplete acquisition, mostly evident on the reduced size of their vocabulary, influence their syntactic competence.
Most of these issues could be resolved assuming a diverse perspective on languages. Following the Universal Grammar Theory we should consider a language not as a complete system but as a set of features acquired in different ways at different times. One can master Spanish in family contexts but be more familiar with English in matters like job and school. This can be the case of heritage speakers who are barely exposed to social practices in their first language and use their second language to read newspapers or a book. Therefore they may acquire a native-like competence in difficult syntactic rules in their second language but be more proficient with their first language when it comes to family or personal issues. It is important to stress that cognitively we acquire a language, that is not English or Spanish, but a set of features that help us fulfill our personal and social needs.
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