Developmental Sequences in Learner LanguageThe Silent PeriodIn L1 acquisition, children go through a lengthy period of listening topeople talk to them before they produce their first words.This silent period is necessary for the young learners to discover whatlanguage is and what it does.In L2 acquisition, the silent period is not necessary, since the learneralready knows about language, having already acquired one.Yet, many L2 learners, opt for a silent period.Saville-Troike (1988), reports that six out of nine children learning L2English that she studied opted for a silent period.Not all learners go through a silent period, as Saville-Troike’s study shows.Many learners, particularly classroom learners, are obliged to speak fromthe beginning.
Developmental Sequences in Learner LanguageThe Silent PeriodGibbons (1985), reviewed the evidence in favour of a silent period in bothchildren and adults and found it inconclusive.His own survey of 47 children learning English as an L2 in Sydney primaryschools revealed considerable individual variation, with a mean length ofjust two weeks in silence.There is some disagreement regarding the contribution that the silentperiod makes to language learning.Krashen (1982), argued that it provides an opportunity for the learner tobuild up competence via listening while Itoh and Hatch (1978), refer to thesilent period as a ‘rejection stage’ in which the learner tries to avoidlearning English.
Developmental Sequences in Learner LanguageThe Silent PeriodThe silent period provides learners with opportunities to preparethemselves for social use of the L2 by means of PRIVATE SPEECH which theyengage in while they are ‘silent.Saville-Troike, defines silent speech as speech that is produced at a verylow volume which is inaudible to anyone present and does not expect anyresponse.In general, in L2 acquisition, early language is characterized by a silentperiod although not all learners go through this period.
Developmental Sequences in Learner LanguageFormulaic SequencesFormulaic sequences consist of expressions which are learnt asunanalysable wholes and employed on particular occasions.It differs from creative speech.Two types of Formulaic sequences according to Hakuta (19760, Krashenand Scarcella (1978)- ROUTINES and PATTERNS – refer respectively to wholeutterances learnt as memorized chunks (eg: ‘I don’t know’) and utterancesthat are only partially unanalysed and have one or more open slots (eg: ‘CanI have a__________?’)Formulaic speech can also be observed in the speech of native speakers(eg: ‘Can I come in?’, ‘What’s for dinner?’).Formulaic sequences have been observed to be very common to alllearners in L2 acquisition, irrespective of their age, particularly in the earlystages.
Developmental Sequences in Learner LanguageStructural and Semantic SimplificationIn comparison with formulaic speech, learners early creative utterances aretypically truncated, consisting of just one or two words, with bothgrammatical functors and content words missing.Hanania and Gradman (1977) gave the following examples produced bytheir adult subject Fatmah:library (= He is in the library)clean floor (= give me something for cleaning floors.)Ellis (1984) found further evidence of simplified speech in the speech ofthree children learning English in a classroom setting.Me no blue (= I don’t have a blue crayon)Eating at school (= she eats meat at school)These utterances indicate that both structural and semantic simplificationare taking place in learner language.
Developmental Sequences in Learner LanguageThe Acquisition of Grammatical Morphemes : Order and SequenceMuch of the early research focussed on the order of acquisition whilesubsequent research has increasingly paid attention to sequence of stagesevident in the acquisition of a single feature as well as order.Morphemes are the smallest meaningful units of a language.Eg: developmental = develop + ment + alEarly studies of the acquisition of grammatical morphemes such as plural –s and articles produced mixed results.The morpheme order acquisition is not the same in L1 and L2 acquisition.Dulay and Burt (1974), studied the acquisition of 10 grammaticalmorphemes by children learning English as a second language .
Developmental Sequences in Learner LanguageThe Acquisition of Grammatical Morphemes : Order and SequenceUsing the ‘Bilingual Syntax Measure’ they counted morpheme use inobligatory contexts, that is, a context where the item was obligatory incorrect native speaker speech.They compared the acquisition order they obtained with the acquisitionorder for the same morphemes obtained in both longitudinal studies andcross-sectional of L1 English.They found that the orders were different.Articles, copula and auxiliary ‘be’ were acquired earlier by L2 learnerswhile irregular past tense was acquired later.The process by which individual morphemes are acquired displays bothsimilarities and differences.For example: both L1 and L2 learners omit pronouns and they bothovergeneralize individual pronouns.In general , the morpheme acquisition order studies appear to show strongevidence of a natural sequence, but there is also evidence that points todifferences.
Developmental Sequences in Learner LanguageThe Acquisition of Tense and AspectThe morpheme studies belong to an early period in SLA (the 1970s and 1980s),however, tense and aspect, both of which involve the acquisition of morphologicalfeatures, have been studied intensively in SLA in more recent years.Studies of the acquisition of tense and aspect lend strong support to the existenceof developmental patterns in L2 acquisition.Learners of different L2s manifest similar patterns of development when acquiringtense and aspect.Klein (1995), identified the following order of acquisition of English tense-aspectmorphological forms in a longitudinal study of an Italian learner:Third person – s and present tense copulaIrregular past tense forms and verb-ingPresent perfect formsRegular past tense formsFuture with ‘shall’ or ‘will’Past perfect formsBardovi-Halig (2000) reported a similar order in her longitudinal study of 16learners of L2 English from 4 different language back grounds.past > past progressive > present perfect > past perfect
Developmental Sequences in Learner LanguageThe Acquisition of Tense and AspectProposed ‘natural order’ for L2 acquisition
Developmental Sequences in Learner LanguageThe Acquisition of Syntactic Structures - NegativesA number of studies which examined the acquisition of negatives in Englishand German provide evidence of a clear sequence of development.The acquisition of negation shows clear transitional structures whichinvolves a series of forms which learners use en route to mastering thetarget language form.EXAMPLES OF ENGLISH: no swim (at the beginning of the utterance) – external negation I no can swim (the negative article comes inside the utterance) internalnegation I can’t swim (negative is attached to modal verbs)These forms are indicative of the developmental stages that learners passthrough on the way to TL competence.Examples of negatives : no, not, don’t, doesn’t, didn’t won’t, can’t
Developmental Sequences in Learner LanguageThe Acquisition of Syntactic Structures - Relative ClausesStudies on the acquisition of relative clauses also provide evidence of anorder of acquisition.There is evidence that learners solve it piecemeal by learning to modifynoun phrases before the verb, and then noun phrases that follow the verb.Examples :‘A beautiful girl who lives next door.’‘I got a friend who speaks fluent English.’Also, learners acquire the functions that relative pronouns can perform in afairly well-defined order.
Developmental Sequences in Learner Language The Acquisition of Syntactic Structures The ZISA project and research based on Pienamann’s Processibility Theory have provided impressive evidence to show that learners acquire a range of features in a predictable order.Stage L2 Process Morphology/Syntax6 Main and subordinate Embedded questions: clauses ‘I wonder why he sold the car.’5 Subject-verb agreement 3rd person-s: ‘This man owns a dog4 Inversion Yes/no inversion: ‘Has he seen you?’3 Noun phrase agreement Plural: ‘He own many dogs’ Adverb: ‘He sleeps always.’2 Plural/possessive pronoun Canonical order (Subject- verb-object: ‘He buy car.’1 Invariant forms Single constituent (including
Developmental Sequences in Learner LanguageThe Acquisition of VocabularyTwo broad approaches to the study of developmental patterns in theacquisition of vocabulary can be identified:1) Longitudinal studies of L2 learners productive vocabulary2) Experimental studies of learners’ acquisition of individual words L2 acquisition, like the acquisition of grammar, is a slow and gradual process. Learners gradually extend their lexicons while simultaneously accumulating knowledge of lexical forms and meanings. However, there is little evidence of any order or sequence. There is some evidence that early acquisition is characterized by nouns and adjectives, with verbs only appearing later. But there does not seem to be any clear hierarchy in learners’ acquisition of the properties of individual words. It is important to note that vocabulary constitutes an open system that is not subject to ‘rules’ in the same way as grammar or phonology. The acquisition of vocabulary is seen as involving item rather than system learning and for this reason is inherently ‘variational’.
Developmental Sequences in Learner LanguageThe Acquisition of PhonologySimilarities are also evident in the acquisition of phonology, despite thefact that L2 learners are known to transfer features from their L1.Abrahamson (2003), claimed that closed syllable structure is essentially thesame for L1 and L2 learners.When faced with articulating a closed syllable such as ‘sad’ learners arelikely to either omit the final consonant (i.e. Say ‘sa’), add a vowel (i.e. Say‘sadi’), or devoice the /d/ (i.e. Say ‘sat’)Thus, learners’ acquisition of closed syllable structure shows a stagedprogression from consonant deletion to epenthesis to feature substitutionto target form.