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Review of  EUROSLA Yearbook 2003


Reviewer: Dalila Ayoun
Book Title: EUROSLA Yearbook 2003
Book Author: Susan H. Foster-Cohen Simona Pekarek Doehler
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics
Language Acquisition
Book Announcement: 15.1862

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Review:
Date: Wed, 16 Jun 2004 14:43:14 -0700
From: Dalila Ayoun <ayoun@email.arizona.edu>
Subject: EuroSLA Yearbook, vol. 3, 2003

EDITORS: Foster-Cohen, Susan; Peharek Doehler, Simona
TITLE: EuroSLA Yearbook, Volume3
PUBLISHER: Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2004

Dalila Ayoun, Department of French & Italian, University of Arizona

This volume includes seven papers (out of twelve initially submitted)
and the three plenaries given at the EuroSLA conference that took place
in Basel in 2002. The volume starts with a brief introduction by the
editors, which describes the background of the volume, and gives a short
summary of each paper.

Yoichi Miyamoto and Yuka Iijima ('On the existence of scrambling in the
grammar of Japanese elementary EFL learners', pp. 7-27) administered a
grammaticality judgment task to Japanese elementary (n=65) and
intermediate (n=56) learners of English as a foreign language (as well
as two native speaker controls) to test their interpretation of
wh-phrases focusing on specificity effects. The 50 stimuli included
short-distance subjects and objects, long-distance subjects and objects,
and how many in-situ type sentences, as well as two sentences
exemplifying island effects and eight sentences illustrating temporal
adverbial phrases. Based on results showing that Subject Condition
effects are absent from the participants' grammar, the authors contend
that wh-movement is actually scrambling in the grammar of the elementary
learners, whereas the grammar of the intermediate learners allows 'real'
wh-movement with respect to specificity and island effects. It is also
argued that the elementary learners who do not allow wh-phrases in-situ
use an obligatory stylistic wh-fronting rule instead. Lastly, based on
the theoretical assumption that wh-phrases consist of a quantificational
feature in addition to a wh-feature, it is speculated that the Fquant
Asborption parameter (Watanabe, 2000) has not yet been reset to the
target value.

Myoto Iko ('The interpretation of pronouns by Japanese learners of
English', pp. 29-56) investigated the interpretation of pronoun
reference by adult Japanese learners of English (n=58), compared with
English (n=14) and Japanese native controls (n=40). The stimuli of a
truth value judgment task included simple and complex sentences with
quantified and referential antecedents. The author set out to find out
whether L2 adult learners experienced the same difficulties as children
do in first language (L1) acquisition, as well as whether Japanese
learners of English as a second language (L2) faced a poverty of the
stimulus problem. After outlining the differences between English and
Japanese pronouns, Iko briefly reviews the findings in child L1
acquisition and adult L2 acquisition, which appear to be inconclusive
(e.g., White, 1998). The present results indicate that adult L2 learners
perform similarly to L1 child learners (i.e., they are much better at
accepting grammatical antecedents than at rejecting ungrammatical
antecedents) contra White (1998). It also appears that adult L2 learners
can use the syntactic knowledge of the binding Principle B and the [+R]
lexical feature of pronouns, but not the pragmatic knowledge of the Rule I.

The paper by Elena Gavruseva ('L2 root infinitives uprooted and
revisited', pp. 57-75) analyses the root infinitives (non-finite
predicates) found in the longitudinal data (spontaneous production) of 5
Japanese children who are learning English as an L2 to re-examine
current theoretical approaches to root infinitives (e.g., Prévost &
White, 2000) address three main questions: 1) Are the non-finite
predicates (found in both L1 and L2 data) utterances lacking in
syntactic tense/agreement features?; 2) How are these structures
generated?; 3) What causes the gradual decline in the use of these root
infinitives in the child's grammar? The predictions of the two main
theories of root infinitives are examined and tested with the
spontaneous L2 child production data: the Truncation Hypothesis (Rizzi
1993/94) and the Morphological Deficit Hypothesis (Haznedar & Schwartz,
1997; Lardiere, 1998; Prévost & White, 2000). It is argued that neither
of these theories account for the observed developmental trends. It is
proposed that the emergence of finiteness features is constrained by the
aspectual semantics of each predicate: some English predicates have an
inherent telicity feature whereas others have to acquire it in the
aspectual projection. It is also suggested that the initial state of
children's grammars is underspecified for aspectual features because the
content of functional projections are parameterized.

Marit Westergaard ('Unlearning V2. Transfer, markedness, and the
importance of input cues in the acquisition of word order in English by
Norwegian children', pp. 77-101) also investigates the L2 acquisition of
English by Norwegian children (n=100) to consider to what extent the L1
word order is transferred to the target language. Norwegian is a verb
second (V2) language whereas English is an SVO language, generally
assumed to be the basic word order allowed by Universal Grammar (e.g,
Kayne, 1995). The word orders are accounted for by two parameters:
V-to-I (aux), I-to-C (in questions) for English; and V-to-I-to-C for
Norwegian. As acknowledged by the author, methodological flaws limit the
conclusions that can be drawn from this study. In spite of their very
minimal exposure to English at the time of the data collection, the
participants were administered three different elicitation tasks
(assessment of sentence pairs, grammaticality judgments, elicited
production). The written tasks were followed by very brief individual
oral sessions with some of the participants. The results show transfer
of the V2 word order in topicalised structures, questions and sentences
with adverbials. Lightfoot's (1999) theory of cue-based learning is
extended to L2 acquisition as an explanation for the developmental
patterns observed.

The paper by T. Navés, M. Rosa Torres and M. Luz Celaya ('Long term
effects of an earlier start. An analysis of Efl written production', pp.
103-129) examines the written production of six groups of L2 English
tutored learners (n=520), who are Spanish-Catalan bilinguals, to
investigate the effects of onset and age on ultimate attainment in
writing. The first group started English instruction at age 8, while the
second group started at age 11. data were collected after 200, 416 and
726 hours of instruction. The current evidence favors the hypothesis
that older learners have an advantage over younger learners, since the
rate of acquisition increases with age. The data presented in this paper
(which are part of a larger research project, the Barcelona Age Factor
Project) seem to support this evidence. Navés et al. use 39 writing
measures classified into the four aspects of language development
proposed in Wolfe-Quintero et al. (1998) (fluency, accuracy, syntactic
complexity, and lexical complexity) to analyze a 15 minute composition.
The overall results show that the learners who started later
significantly outperform the learners who started their English L2
acquisition earlier.

Rebekah Rast and Jean-Yves Dommergues ('Toward a characterization of
saliency on first exposure to a second language', pp. 131-156)
investigated what French native speakers could perceive and process of
Polish after just a few hours of instruction. Following Slobin's (1985)
Operating Principle, they assume that ''perceptually salient'' elements
can be detected using a sentence repetition task. They focused on word
length, word stress, phonemic distance, transparency, word position and
frequency. Participants (n=8) were tested by repeating 113 words in
sentential context first prior to instruction, then after 4 hours of
instructions, and finally after 8 hours of instructions.
The results show a significant difference for L2 exposure, hours of
instruction had an impact on performance, and the factors listed above
played a role that grew over time. Even after such short exposure, the
French native speakers relied on lexical stress in Polish, a property
that does not exist in their L1.

The next two papers focus on ultimate attainment in L2 acquisition,
investigating near-native or very advanced learners, in contrast with
the two preceding papers that chose to analyze the effects of initial
exposure to an L2.

The paper by Sonja van Boxtel, Theo Bongaerts and Peter-Arno Coppen
(Native-like attainment in L2 syntax', pp. 157-181) challenges the
prediction made by the Critical Period Hypothesis that post-puberty L2
learners cannot attain native-like proficiency. They administered an
elicited imitation task and a relative grammaticality judgment task to
German and French late learners (n=30) of Dutch. (It is part of a larger
study investigating late L2 Dutch learners with German, French and
Turkish as L1s). The participants were tested on the notoriously
difficult dummy subject constructions (constructions with semantically
empty element with the syntactic function of subject). Several methods
of statistical analyses were used on the raw data obtained from the two
tasks to establish whether the learners fell within native speaker range
or not. It appears that many L2 learners fall within the native speaker
range with some individual variation. It must be noted that the German
and French participants who performed within native speaker range
according to the strictest criteria were highly educated and had a
linguistic background. The authors conclude that their results provide
evidence against a critical period hypothesis connected to
language-specific physiological changes in the brain because it
precludes any exceptions. On the other hand, they are also compatible
with the hypothesis that there are biologically determined age effects
for the L2 acquisition of syntax.

Christiane von Stutterheim ('Linguistic structure and information
organization. The case of very advanced learners', pp. 183-206) chose
event-time structures in several languages (Algerian Arabic, English,
German, Spanish and Norwegian) to examine the difficulties that very
advanced L2 learners still have in producing a text. The data presented
here are part of a larger interdisciplinary research project that
focuses on crosslinguistic differences in information organization. It
is briefly summarized before introducing the results of empirical
studies with native speakers which used four experimental tasks: a film
retelling task, the verbalization of single events, the analysis of
speech onset times during that verbalization, and an in-progress eye
tracking study.

The results of each task are presented in detail for both the native
speakers and the advanced learners. For instance, the results of the
first task led to the conclusion that crosslinguistic difference in text
structures were due to structural differences in the languages involved,
not to cultural traditions. The overall conclusion regarding native
speaker languages is that grammaticized meanings are crucial to
principles of information organization. The general conclusion regarding
the advanced speakers is that they maintain their L1 principles in
organizing and presenting written information. It is argued that
advanced learners are held back by a grammatical factor in the sense
that they need to discover grammaticized meanings and their role in the
organization of information.

The last two papers of the volume take on a broader approach L2
acquisition to consider social factors (Ulrich Dausendschön-Gay,
'Producing and learning to produce utterances in social interaction',
pp. 207-228), and the links between language testing and L2 acquisition
research (Tim McNamara, 'Tearing us apart again. The paradigm wars and
the search for validity', pp. 229-238). More specifically,
Dausendschön-Gay argues for the integration of social interaction, in
particular body movements and prosody, with the analysis of L2 data. The
European Science Foundation project is one example of an effort to
include social and cultural aspects that come into play in negotiating
meaning in social interactions. The interaction hypothesis is extended
and redefined along much broader paradigms to propose for instance LASS
(language acquisition support system) in L1 acquisition and SLASS
(second language acquisition support system) in L2 acquisition.

Finally, in exploring the links between language testing and L2
research, McNamara re-examines the familiar concepts of validity and
constructs using Skehan's (1998) model and Messick's (1989) framework as
illustrations, and shows how they unavoidably raise questions of social
and political values, in a tense climate.

This volume presents a somewhat eclectic collection of papers with about
half of the papers targeting L2 child learners and the other half
targeting L2 adult learners. It presents empirical data, cross-sectional
and longitudinal, from learners after just a few hours of exposure to
learners who perform as near-native speakers. Theoretically, some of the
papers focus on very specific, narrow structures such as wh-movement or
root infinitives while others take a much broader approach to consider
to word order and writing proficiency. Finally, there are very varied L1
backgrounds (Japanese, Russian, Azerbajaini, Norwegian, Spanish, French,
German, Arabic and English) while the L2 of adult or child learner is
usually English (but also Polish, Dutch, German or English).
But what appears as an eclectic collection of papers at first is
actually a very rich and interesting volume. All the papers illustrate a
detailed analysis of different linguistic phenomena from several
theoretical frameworks which may be overlooked in North-American
publications. In many cases, the individual papers are part of larger,
long term research projects with well thought-out goals, empirical and
theoretical questions. In all cases, they underlie the complexity and
wealth of issues facing researchers in both L1 and L2 acquisition.

REFERENCES
Haznedar, B. & Schwartz, B. D. (1997) Are there optional infinitives in
child L2 acquisition? In E. Hughes et al. (eds.), Proceedings of the
BUCLD, pp. 257-268. Somerville: Cascadilla Press.

Kayne, R. (1995) The antisymmetry of syntax. Cambridge/London: MIT Press.

Lardiere, D. (1998) Dissociating syntax from morphology in a divergent
L2 end-state grammar. Second Language Research, 14, 359-375.

Lightfoot, D. (1999) The development of language: acquisition, change
and evolution. Malden/Oxford: Blackwell.

Messick, S. (1989) Validity. In R. L. Linn (ed.), Educational
measurements (3rd Ed.), (pp. 13-103) New York: American Council on
Education and Macmillan.

Prévost, P. & White, L. (2000) Accounting for morphological variation
in second language acquisition: truncation or missing inflection? In
M. A.Friedemann & L. Rizzi (eds.), The acquisition of syntax (pp.
202-235) London: Longman.

Skehan, P. (1998) A cognitive approach to language learning. Oxford:
Oxford University Press.

Slobin, D. (1985) Crosslinguistic evidence for the language-making
capacity. In D. Slobin (ed.), The crosslinguistic study of language
acquisition, Vol. II (pp. 1157-1256) Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum
Associates.

Watanabe, A. (2000) Absorption: interpretability and feature strength.
In Grant-in-Aid for COE Research Report (4): Researching and verifying
an advanced theory of human language: Explanation of the human faculty
for constructing and computing sentences on the basis of lexical
conceptual features, 253-296.

White, L. (1998) Second language acquisition and binding principle B:
child/adult differences. Second Language Research, 14, 425-439.

Wolfe-Quintero, K., Inagaki, S. & Kim, H. (1998) Second language
development in writing: measures of fluency, accuracy and complexity.
Hawai'i: University of Hawai'i at Manoa.
 
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Dalila Ayoun is an associate professor of French Linguistics and Second
Language Acquisition and Teaching at the University of Arizona in
Tucson. Her research interests center around the second language
acquisition of syntax from a generative/minimalist framework, tense and
aspect, computer-based elicitation tasks.