Childhood Second Language Learning Term Paper

Pages: 13 (3371 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Communication - Language

SAMPLE EXCERPT:

[. . .] One criticism of Polinsky's 1995 research is that for some of his groups of speakers, only a few members participated. Then there were other groups that consisted of 20 members, such as the Russian speakers, and in the Reduced Lithuanian Group, there were only 4 speakers. A future research study could even out the numbers of speakers, unless this would be nearly to accomplish, as in the case of some "dead" languages.

Genesee Research

Genesee (2001) built on previous research which held that although bilingual children are exposed to different sets of linguistic input, they go through an initial stage where they have one linguistic system. According to Genesee (2001), current evidence indicates that bilingual children can use their developing languages differently and more appropriately with different interlocutors from the earliest stages of productive use. This is significant because it reveals that bilingual children have the cognitive capacity to identify and respond appropriately to important communicative characteristics of their interlocutors. Upon an examination of previous research studies, Genesee (2001) concluded that the linguistic systems of bilingual children develop autonomously and in the same manner as monolingual children. Genesee (2001) offers support from previous studies for this conclusion: 1) upon sufficient exposure to two languages, bilingual children can acquire the same grammatical competence in each of their languages just as monolinguals, and 2) transfer during bilingual acquisition is restricted to specific aspects of syntax or phonology.

Upon reviewing previous studies, Genesee (2001) concludes that child bilingual code mixing is grammatically constrained. The research indicates that once bilingual children demonstrate abstract notions of grammatical knowledge, these notions are constrained. Accordingly, the operation of such constraints which reflect surface features of grammar appears to be evident even earlier in age, when the child is just beginning to speak. Genesee (2001) compared code mixing in children learning language combinations that differ in topological similarity, such as English and French. The results show that bilingual children adopt different code-mixing strategies in accordance with the topological characteristics of their languages. Genesee (2001) points out that the evidence shows that the language faculty is undisturbed even by the complex grammatical challenges posed by bilingual acquisition. Finally, research on children who grow up learning two languages simultaneously indicates that they acquire differentiated representations of the target languages very early in development (Genesee, 2001).

Francis Research

Research by Francis (2005) examined and analyzed many of the earlier studies in this area, and concludes that attrition and replacement are integral parts of a single process. According to Francis (2005), attrition is developmental and systematic, in a similar way to that in which the first language acquisition is not "random forgetting," as previously theorized by Seliger. External factors do not provide for a full account of how the development of attrition or replacement unfolds. Francis discusses two areas in language attrition that has been the focus of vast research: 1) middle childhood, during which a fully developed L1 begins to undergo attrition subsequent to normal monolingual development through ages 5-6, and 2) early childhood, younger than 5 years of age (Francis, 2005). Francis discusses the argument for an early separation of the bilingual child's languages.

Francis discussed the manner in which the attriting language and the replacing language interact in a systematic way, not as two interlanguages simply passing each other by in opposite directions, but in close contact with one with the other such that the replacing language occupies ceded domains systematically (Francis, 2005). Francis theorizes that if it is possible for the attrited language to be replaced completely at any age during the childhood years, there must exist intrinsic factors that may account for the development of a delayed L1 that differs from the normal and typical acquisition of primary languages in children. According to Francis, if L1acquisition proceeds normally during early childhood, L2 learning outcomes range from native-like to interlanguage competence that is rudimentary but qualitatively superior to late, abnormal L1 learning (Francis, 2005). Francis also states that analyses of L2 proficiency comparing child beginners reveal a linear decline; even L2 learners with ages of onset of less than five years could be distinguished from native speakers.

Finally, Francis states that since we are still under the obligation of trying to explain L1-L2 differences, some other process, such as one internal to the faculty of language needs to be explored. This is a positive aspect of his research, and could be implemented or modified in future studies. Francis states that a more heterogeneous and modular approach to how the faculty of language constructs grammatical competence may assist in determining the concepts of performance and competence. He suggests that one of the ways this can be done is to uncover some of the underlying principles for the different faculty of language outcomes, such as primary language, L2, abnormal L1 learning, L1 attrition and replacement (Francis, 2005).

Future Research

A review of the literature reveals that although helpful, future studies are warranted in this area. Future studies could focus on language in the context of children's lives at home and at school. This is because very little is known about the conditions in homes, in schools, and in communities that influence variation in language acquisition and retention. Similarly, effective language instruction cannot occur in isolation from other aspects of an instructional program, yet questions regarding school and classroom environments that facilitate and sustain successful educational outcomes for language-minority students have not been addressed by research. Future research could also focus on developing specific procedures to assess productive use of gender agreement morphology in both monolingual and bilingual children with various levels of L1 proficiency and with various language histories. Included in these groups should be children who evidence both typical and atypical language skills.

As mentioned by Genesee (2001), since young bilingual children have differentiated representations of their two languages, the question of whether their systems develop autonomously or interdependently could be examined in another future study. Autonomous development would be reflected in patterns of acquisition and linguistic representation that match those of monolingual children acquiring the same languages (Genesee, 2001). Monolingual students could be examined to determine whether their systems develop autonomously or interdependently. This would contribute to future research even though it is clear that bilingual children have grammatical capabilities permitting them to use and manage their two languages that set them apart from monolinguals. In this case, evidence of autonomous development would also be evidence for the capacity of the language faculty to acquire and represent the distinct structures and constraints that comprise the grammars of each language.

III. Synthesis

Francis (2005) and Genesee (2001) both conclude that the language faculty is equipped to process input from two languages such that bilingual language acquisition of two first languages simultaneously is the normal outcome. Both agree that this outcome is obtained despite considerable variation in the child's bilingual experience; code-switching and mixing by parents and an unequal distribution of each language in different realm of familial discourse (Francis, 2005). Research by Francis is also similar to Polinsky, who distinguished between children that are forgetters and those that are incomplete learners. Francis builds on the research of Genesee (2001), concluding that attrition of L1 does not affect L2, neither delaying it nor accelerating its development.

Polinsky (1995) took a different approach from Francis and Genesee, demonstrating that there is a significant parallelism in structural change across languages. Polinsky differs from the other authors because his work shows a correlation between levels of grammatical and lexical loss and introduces a simple test to measure the level of attrition. Research by Genesee and Bolonyai both discuss the theory of code switching, which is not addressed by Polinsky or Francis. Code switching is mixing in words from the other language, usually with function words that seem to express relations or verbs from a child's perspective. Bilingual children appear to use code switching until the age of three, however only two of the studies mentioned it. Future studies could examine code switching in different contexts, for example in families where code switching is the norm.

One of the most noticeable ways in which the studies varied from each other was the method in which the research was conducted. Bolonyai studied one subject and family over a large period of time. This study was the one conducted during the longest time period, a positive method to use to obtain a lot of consistent data. However, unlike the other studies, since the sample was so small, no generalizations regarding the results can be made to a larger population. Research by Genesee examined a multitude of studies and research, drawing conclusions based on many study results. This was positive because the conclusions are based on a large sample of research, even though each individual study examined varied from each other. Similar to Polinsky, Genesee mentioned adult bilinguals, and did not specifically limit the study to children as a whole as did the other two authors.

Francis' research method is comparable to that… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Childhood Second Language Learning.  (2005, October 11).  Retrieved December 14, 2018, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/childhood-second-language-learning/42256

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