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Review of  EUROSLA Yearbook


Reviewer: Isabelle R. Ra
Book Title: EUROSLA Yearbook
Book Author: Leah Roberts Georges Daniel Veronique Anna Nilsson Rion Tellier
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Psycholinguistics
Book Announcement: 21.3387

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Review:
EDITORS: Leah Roberts, Daniel Véronique, Anna Nilsson, Marion Tellier
TITLE: EUROSLA Yearbook
SUBTITLE: Volume 9 (2009)
SERIES TITLE: EUROSLA Yearbook 9
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2009

Isabelle Lemée, French Department, St Patrick's College, Drumcondra, Ireland.

SUMMARY

Volume 9 of the EUROSLA Yearbook contains 11 papers selected from two EUROSLA
conferences, organised in 2007 and 2008 in Newcastle and Aix-en-Provence,
respectively.
There are four very clear sections in this volume and I will summarize them in
that format.

Section 1: L2 acquisition from the perspective of morphology and syntax

The volume opens with a contribution by Rosi on the current debate on the
acquisition of the aspectual system, a topic with a fruitful tradition in L2
acquisition research. She compares the acquisition patterns observed in German
and Spanish L2 learners of Italian to those obtained by connectionist models
recently employed in acquisitional studies, i.e Self- Organising Maps or SOMs
(Kohonen 2001). These SOMs test the influence of the statistical distribution of
the input in the acquisition of Italian L2. Rosi found evidence of the effect of
statistical distribution of the input data of the learning process and its
gradual decrease during acquisition of an L2 in parallel with the increasing
exposure to L2 input. Her article, entitled ''Connectionist modelling of the
development of Aspect in Italian L2,'' also confirms that the role of Actionality
and Grounding maybe more important than other features of the predicate in the
acquisition of aspect. She also discusses the distribution of both aspect
markers across stages, the prior emergence of perfective then imperfective
markers, as well as the slow development of L2 aspect when it diverges from that
of the L1 system.

Jaensch and Sarko test the ''Fluctuation Hypothesis in article choice in English
and German'' based on data from Syrian Arabic and Japanese native speakers. The
hypothesis proposes that learners will fail to acquire uninterpretable features,
if these are not present in their L1. The article examines the suppliance of
articles by these two groups of learners. The authors argue that the differing
L2s of these learners should be irrelevant for the Fluctuation Hypothesis, as
both German and English mark their articles for definiteness in the same manner,
and given the L1s under observation, they can make specific predictions in
relation to this hypothesis. Arabic, but not Japanese, marks definiteness, and
both languages do not mark for indefiniteness. The study shows that the
Fluctuation Hypothesis cannot account for the selections made by the Japanese
group, who show little difference between specific and non-specific readings
(both in definite and indefinite contexts). Furthermore, the authors show that
is it the presence of a relative clause modifier that forces the Arabic speakers
to make inappropriate selections in indefinite contexts, rather than them
exhibiting a fluctuation effect. For both learner groups, the feature-based
proposal can account for variation in learners' production without the necessity
to appeal to a construction-specific parameter such as the Article Choice
Parameter or to a fluctuation effect which is specific to non-native language
acquisition. The Article Choice Parameter has been proposed by Ionin and
colleagues (2004) and suggests that native speakers of article-less languages
may fluctuate between selecting articles based on definiteness and selecting
them based on specificity.

In ''How is inflectional morphology learned?'' Slabakova probes further into
possible sources of morphological variability in second language comprehension,
as captured by the choice of agreement endings in context, in English-German
interlanguage. The ability to supply missing subjects by beginning and
intermediate English learners of German L2 was tested. The findings seem to
support the Morphological Under-Specification Hypothesis (McCarthy 2007) which
states that morphological variation come from representational deficits and the
Combinational Variability Hypothesis (Adger 2006), which explains intra-personal
morphosyntactic variation as arising from the combinational mechanisms of
language itself (p. 59).

Frenck-Mestre, Foucart, Carrasco, and Herschensohn examine Event Related
Potential responses to gender discord in L2 French. The current literature
leaves open the role of the properties of the learners' native language in their
capacity to acquire the syntactic reflex of gender agreement. The study focuses
on three groups of adult L2 learners -- native Spanish, German and English
speakers -- and compare them to native French speakers with respect to L1/L2
similarities in the processing of grammatical gender as a function of language
background, and secondly to the presence/absence of overt phonetic cues. The
authors present evidence that suggests that the native language may influence
the acquisition and processing of grammatical features in a late-acquired
language, while showing that acquisition is clearly not limited to those
features present in the L1, nor is it limited by the age of the learner.
Furthermore, they show that salient phonetic cues can enhance the online
processing of agreement and, arguably, the grammaticalization of these rules.

Section 2: L2 acquisition from a psycholinguistic perspective

In ''Morphological dissociations in the L2 acquisition,'' Agathopoulou and Despina
contribute to the debate concerning the representations of inflectional
morphology by investigating (ir)regular past perfective forms in L2 (and L1)
Greek. The main question raised is whether or not the Dual Mechanism Model
devised by Pinker (1991, 1999) holds in the adult non-native acquisition of the
Greek past perfective. This model states that irregular words are stored in the
mental lexicon, while regular ones are computed by a symbolic rule, like for
example in the case of U-shaped progression. The results indicate a robust
discrepancy in the acquisition of regular vs irregular inflected words both in
the native and non-native data. Their findings support computation for regulars
as proposed by Pinker's model both in native and non-native language
acquisition. However the model's claim for full storage of all irregular words
is not verified.

''La lecture des mots translinguistiques en français L3'' is an investigation by
Nilsson of lexical processing by seven Swedish learners of French L3. Her
results show that the L1 is dominant in the learner's lexical processing,
irrespectively of the type of stimulus. The connections between the concepts and
L2 forms are weaker than those of the L1. This particularly complex study show
that the activations of French or ''trans-linguistic'' words (p. 155) allows for
a more important activation of other words which have similar lexical patterns.

Skrzypek's study sets out to fill a research gap with respect to the
relationship between phonological short-term memory (PSTM) as indexed by serial
non-word recall and serial non-word recognition, and the learning of
collocations. It is based on data from 104 Polish adult L2 learners of English.
The author identifies a significant link between the development of L2
collocational competence and PSTM, as indexed by serial non-word recall, at both
beginning and lower intermediate level. In the case of elementary learners, the
serial non-word recall recognition scores were significantly linked with the
vocabulary levels change and the progress vocabulary scores.

Bartning, Forsberg and Hancock raise the question of whether or not it is
possible for L2 learners to reach native-like levels in L2. The aim of
''Resources and obstacles in very advanced L2 French'' is to test various measures
of late features in spoken L2 French. They study formulaic language, information
structure, and morpho-syntax in order to discern and characterize more advanced
developmental stages beyond the existing 6 established by Bartning and Schlyter
(2004), i.e. 1) initial stage; 2) post-initial stage; 3) intermediate stage; 4)
advanced stage, low level; 5) advanced stage, medium level; 6) advanced stage,
higher level. The authors, by comparing very advanced learners to natives and
less advanced speakers, found that morpho-syntactic deviances were still very
much present in the speech of very advanced learners. They conclude with the
proposal of a transitional stage with L2 users seen as ''functional bilinguals''
(p. 207); this would constitute a stage between the advanced learners and the
near-native speaker.

Section 3: L2 acquisition at highly advanced levels

In '' On L1 attrition and the linguistic system,'' Schmid compares near-native L2
speakers to L1 attriters, i.e. speakers who emigrated at an age above 12 and who
have become dominant in their L2. This study sheds light on the question of
whether there is a qualitative or merely a quantitative difference between L1
acquisition in childhood and L2 acquisition later in life. Results suggest that
performance in L1 attrition may sometimes diverge from the native norm due to
the competition with L2 and similarities between the two linguistic systems.
Schmid concludes that compared to L1 attriters, L2 speakers may not have the
knowledge and processing strategies of native speakers, but with increasing
practice and proficiency in the L2, they may be able to control language output.

In ''Age effects on self-perceived communicative competence and language choice
among adult multilinguals,'' Dewaele looks at the effects of age of acquisition
on self-perceived communicative competence and language choice for cognitive
operations and emotional communication of adult bi- and multilinguals. The study
is based on self-reports from 1,579 adult bi- and multilinguals from all over
the world. The results suggest that age of acquisition is an important
independent variable in the later use of a foreign language. For instance, a
significant age of acquisition effect was found for self-perceived communication
competence across L2, L3 and L4, with younger starters scoring higher; or for
the use of L2 and L3 to express feelings, with younger starters using the L2 and
L3 more frequently, too.

Section 4: L2 acquisition and study abroad

Pérez-Vidal and Juan-Garau are focusing on the effect of Study Abroad (SA) on
written performance of advanced-level Catalan/Spanish English as a Foreign
Language (EFL) undergraduate students in their paper ''The effect of Study Abroad
(SA) on written performance.'' The goal of the study is to increase the existing
study abroad and formal instruction research by reporting on the longitudinal
development of writing by EFL learners in those two contexts over four data
collection times in three academic years. The results show that the stay abroad
period does result in significant progress in written fluency and lexical
complexity and likewise in considerable improvement especially in accuracy but
also in grammatical complexity. The authors conclude by saying that ''SA good
language learners'' (p. 291) actively practice their listening, reading and
writing skills, in addition to working and interacting with people.

EVALUATION

This well-edited volume contains very insightful articles on second language
research conducted in Europe. The selection of studies offers a wide range of
very useful sources. I particularly liked the progression in the presentation of
the studies. The volume moves from a discussion of L2 acquisition from the
perspective of morphology and syntax, onto L2 acquisition from a
psycholinguistic perspective, then to L2 acquisition at highly advanced levels,
and finishes with L2 acquisition and study abroad themes. The articles presented
in this volume all reveal a high standard of methodology and are usually
well-structured. The majority are very well supported by precise examples, and
have a well-developed research plan. The theoretical perspectives adopted are
wide-ranging and may fall within traditions overlooked elsewhere. Graduate
students, researchers, and teachers of second language will benefit strongly
from this collection of empirically based accounts of multi-lingual and
cross-cultural studies. As the editors underline it in their introduction, the
work presented in this volume also demonstrates sophisticated awareness of
scholarly insights from around the world. This volume is generally well
presented and very pleasant to read.

REFERENCES

Adger, D. (2006). Combinatorial variability. Journal of Linguistics, 42: 503-530.

Bartning, I. and S. Schlyter. (2004). Itinéraires acquisitionnels et stades de
développement, Journal of French Language Studies, 14: 281-299.

Ionin, T., H. Ko and K. Wexler, K. (2004). Article semantics in L2-acquisition:
The role of specificity, Language Acquisition, 12 (1): 3-69.

Kohoren, T. (2001). Self-Organising Maps, 3rd Ed. Berlin: Springer.

McCarthy, C. (2007). Morphological Variability in Second Language Spanish. PhD
Dissertation, McGill University.

Pinker, S. (1991). Rules of Language. Science, 253: 530-535.

Pinker, S. (1999). Words and Rules: The Ingredients of Language. New York: Basic
Books.
 
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER Dr. Isabelle Lemée is currently lecturing in the Department of French in St Patrick's College, Drumcondra, Dublin 9, Ireland, where she teaches linguistics, second language acquisition, and sociolinguistics. Her research interest is in second language acquisition, specifically the question of what impact different contexts of learning (home instruction, immersion, study abroad) have on the development of language acquisition. She is also very much interested in Canadian studies, in particular in the comparison of students learning a language in immersion programs in Canada and students from Europe going on a study abroad experience.