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Review of  Focus on French as a Foreign Language

Reviewer: Bonnibeth Beale Fonseca-Greber
Book Title: Focus on French as a Foreign Language
Book Author: Jean-Marc Adrien Dewaele
Publisher: Multilingual Matters
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Language Acquisition
Subject Language(s): French
Issue Number: 16.1814

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Date: Wed, 8 Jun 2005 14:35:54 -0400
From: Bonnie Fonseca-Greber
Subject: Focus on French as a Foreign Language: Multidisciplinary Approaches

EDITOR: Dewaele, Jean-Marc
TITLE: Focus on French as a Foreign Language
SUBTITLE: Multidisciplinary Approaches
PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters
YEAR: 2005

Bonnibeth B. Fonseca-Greber, Department of Romance Languages & School of
Teaching and Learning, Bowling Green State University


This book, the first of its kind in English, is an edited collection of 10
original chapters devoted to the multidisciplinary study of the acquisition
and production of French interlanguage (IL). The international group of
scholars (French, British, Swedish, Irish, Polish, and Belgian)
contributing to the volume explores, from a breadth of theoretical
perspectives, the full range of French interlanguage from novices to
near-natives of a variety of linguistic backgrounds. The volume will be of
interest to all those interested in French as a Second or Foreign Language,
from students, to teachers, to serious researchers, as well as those
interested in the field of second language acquisition (SLA) in general.

A brief preface by Dewaele contextualizes the need for such a volume and
introduces the researchers and their contributions.

In Chapter 1, 'Psycholinguistic Studies on the Acquisition of French as a
Second Language: The "Learner Variety" Approach' by Watorek and Perdue, the
authors adopt a functional, longitudinal, cross-linguistic perspective to
examine communicative and formal factors that contribute to the
'idiosyncratic' tense and aspect utterances of beginning languages
learners, i.e., utterances which are not clearly traceable to the first or
second language and to the inappropriate, although grammatically correct,
utterances of advanced language learners, especially with respect to
deictic devices. In contrast with previous studies, they find that tense
precedes aspect. They align their discussion with Corder's (1981)
observation that learners have their own internal syllabus for the target
language grammar, and conclude that 'learner-specific organizing
principles, and their specific interaction, may constrain the path towards
the target language' (pp. 13).

In Chapter 2, 'Discourse Structuring in Advanced L2 French: The Relative
Clause,' Hancock and Kirchmeyer examine the relative clause as a measure of
developing complexity in the French interlanguage of Swedish learners.
Based on the information structure of relative clauses, they argue that
syntactic complexity should be assessed at the micro-syntactic and
macro-syntactic, or discursive, level. Their analysis of a corpus of
interviews and video-retellings by native French speakers and Swedish
learners show that with respect to hierarchisation and planning, or
integration and packaging of information, most of their advanced learners
are able to produce utterances with one autonomous relative clause and a
few produce utterances with bi-or multi-propositional automous relatives
with one function, but none are able to produce the complex
multipropositional utterances with a variety of relatives showing multiple
discourse function so typical of native French discourse, where a sequence
of events is narrated with a succession of autonomous qui clauses.

In Chapter 3, 'Adverbs and Functional Categories in L1 and L2 Acquisition
of French', Schlyter, follows Cinque's (1999) work on adverbs as specifiers
of different functional heads. She analyzes a corpus of bilingual
Swedish/French children and adult Swedes acquiring French in order to
determine if they acquire adverbs in the order predicted by Cinque's
Tense-Modal-Aspect Heads and their corresponding adverbs. She interprets
the results within a generative framework and shows that first language
(L1) acquisition support the Weak Continuity Hypothesis whereby the
functional categories (FC) are present but weak, because the bilingual
Swedish/French children follow the adverb hierarchy and successfully
acquire the verb morphology. In contrast, the adult learners offer evidence
that second language (L2) acquisition proceeds according to the Strong
Continuity Hypothesis, whereby the FCs are present from the start, because
the adult learners are able to produce adverbs from the top of the
hierarchy from the beginning despite their rudimentary verb morphology.

In Chapter 4, 'The Emergence and Use of the Plus-Que-Parfait in Advanced
French Interlanguage,' Howard compares the use of the pluperfect marking in
reverse ordered clauses by three groups of Irish learners of L2 French. The
first group had studied French for two years at the university and was
about to study abroad for a year. The second group had also had two years
of French at the university and was just returning from a year's study
abroad. The third group had taken three years of French at the university
instead of studying abroad. Groups 2 and 3 were more apt to use reverse
ordering and to successfully mark it with the plus-que-parfait, although
they only marked it in about a third of the possible contexts. Group 2, the
study abroad group, was also the most likely not to mark any morphological
contrast between the two clauses. In addition, when the plus-que-parfait
was present, Groups 2 and 3 used fewer pragmatic devices and temporal
adverbs to indicate reverse order. According to the author, the results
largely correlate with Bardovi-Harlig (1994).

In Chapter 5, 'The Emergence of Morpho-syntactic Structure in French L2,'
Myles explores the emergence of verb phrases in the very early stages of
instructed L2 French and traces their development longitudinally over two
years. She situates her results in a Universal Grammar (UG) framework, and
finds that: 1) learners experience a verbless stage due to processing
difficulties; 2) L2 learners, like L1 learners, go through an Optional
Infinitive stage where verbs may be variably inflected in finite contexts;
3) the use of finite forms increase longitudinally, just as in the L1; 4)
even for these classroom learners, the appearance of subject clitics
follows similar patterns to those found in L1 French acquisition; 5) the
appearance of free grammatical morphemes seems to be related to the
projecting of the Inflectional Phrase (IP); 6) just as in the L1, finite
and non-finite forms seem to be syntactically constrained; 7) learners pass
through a verbless stage, a bare Verb Phrase (VP) stage, and finally on to
an IP stage in their acquisition of L2 French.

In Chapter 6, 'Syntactic and Semantic Issues in the Acquisition of French
Negation,' Véronique describes the development of negation in L2 French by
speakers of Moroccan Arabic (a variety with a discontinuous negative
morpheme) and compares it with that of other L1 backgrounds. He also
examines the syntactic and semantic factors accounting for the
acquisitional paths he observes. He finds the following developmental
pattern: 1) non is present from the beginning, 2) pas is postponed to être,
avoir, savoir, and connaître, then later to vouloir, falloir, and pouvoir,
3) when non-thematic target language (TL) verbs, especially copula and
auxiliaries, become salient, pas develops TL placement, i.e, after the
finite verb phrase (VP). His findings concur with Meisel's (1997a, b) in
that non is never grammaticalized as a verb negator and that pas emerges
before the VP is fully analyzed. In contrast to Meisel, however, placement
of negation becomes more target-like as learners' repertoire of lexical
verbs grows.

In Chapter 7, 'Gender and Number in French L2: Can We Find Out More About
the Constraints on Production in L2?,' Prodeau adopts a psycholinguistic
approach to analyze the persistent problems English speakers have in
acquisition of L2 French gender and compare this to their acquisition of
number, and find, based on experimental and on film retelling tasks, that
number takes precedence over gender and that gender is neglected when not
essential for comprehension. Errors in gender marking increase as the
distance from the head noun increases, as well as if the noun is
semantically or pragmatically associated with a particular sex, e.g., un
danseur/une danseuse.

In Chapter 8, 'The Development of Gender Attribution and Gender Agreement
in French: A Comparison of Bilingual First and Second Language Learners,'
Granfeldt explores the development of gender in French noun phrases (NP) in
the grammars of Swedish/French bilingual children and adult Swedish
learners of French, in order to determine whether there are qualitative
differences between how gender is acquired by children and adults, and how
acquisition proceeds in the two cases. The study shows that there is a
qualitative difference: when the bilingual children start using articles,
and later adjectives, they master agreement. This is not the case for
adults, although they do improve over time, leading the researcher to
conclude that gender assignment and agreement are possible to acquire in an
L2—at least if the L1 marks gender.

In Chapter 9, 'From Speech Community Back to Classroom: What Variation
Analysis Can Tell Us About the Role of Context in the Acquisition of French
as a Foreign Language,' Regan explores the long term effects of study
abroad on the acquisition of ne deletion. In an important finding for
universities whose study abroad programs may be threatened, Regan documents
that the proficiency gains made in sociolinguistic competence during the
year abroad are maintained, and in some cases increased, even a year after
the students' return. In contrast to what Speech Accommodation Theory
(Giles and Coupland, 1991) might predict, ne use of Irish university
students did not 'decolloquialize' and accommodate back to previous higher
levels of ne use found in more formal classroom French, despite the
classroom being for most of them their only contact with French during the
year that follows their year abroad. Thus the year abroad had a positive
and durable impact on acquisition of native-like sociolinguistic competence
in the learners' L2 French.

In Chapter 10, 'The Role of Psycholinguistic Factors in the Development of
Fluency Amongst Advanced Learners of French,' Towell and Dewaele examine
the development of L2 fluency in the context of Levelt's model of speech
production. Three accounts for the growth of fluency are discussed: 1) the
automization of knowledge model (i.e., increased knowledge leads to
increased fluency), 2) the processing model (i.e., increased fluency allows
for a subsequent increase in knowledge, as determined by working memory
capacity), and 3) the implicit vs. explicit learning model (i.e., explicit
meta-linguistic knowledge does not become automatic implicit knowledge,
impeding fluency for L2 speakers). In their study of pre- and post-study
abroad British university students, they find partial support for the
automization of knowledge model by the growth in both knowledge and fluency
as a result of their study in France, although this position is partially
undermined by the lack of correlation between knowledge and fluency
post-study abroad. The processing model is also largely supported,
especially in their weakest learners. Finally, with respect to implicit vs.
explicit learning, despite gains in L2 fluency as a result of study abroad,
learners did not demonstrate the same levels of fluency as in their L1s,
perhaps due to L2 knowledge being automatized, declarative knowledge,
whereas L1 knowledge is implicit, procedural knowledge.

The volume concludes with an index of subjects and authors.


This volume makes a major contribution to our understanding of the
development of French interlanguage. Among its strengths are its rich
collection of empirical data, its integration with second language
acquisition (SLA) theories, its breadth of theoretical perspectives (from
functionalism and universal grammar to variationist sociolinguistics and
psycholinguistics), its international group of contributors, and its
expansion of L1-L2 language pairs (Italian, Polish, Swedish, Irish,
Moroccan Arabic and English) at varying levels of proficiency, which helps
tease apart general interlanguage features from language specific
influence. Focus on French as a Foreign Language merits a place in the
library of not just of French specialists (researchers, students, and
teachers of French as a Foreign/Second Language) but also of researchers in
second language acquisition and production regardless of their specific
language orientation.


Bardovi-Harlig, K. (1994). Reverse-order reports and the acquisition of
tense: Beyond the principle of chronological order. Language Learning 44
(2), 243-82.

Cinque, G. (1999). Adverbs and Functional Heads: A Cross-linguistic
Perspective. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Corder, S. P. (1981). Post Scriptum. Langages, 57, 39-41.

Giles, H. and Coupland, N. (1991). Language Contexts and Consequences.
Milton Keynes: Open University Press.


Bonnie Fonseca-Greber (Ph.D. University of Arizona, Second Language
Acquisition and Teaching) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of
Romance Languages, the School of Teaching and Learning, and the Department
of German, Russian, and East Asian Languages, at Bowling Green State
University, where she teaches Language Pedagogy and French Linguistics. Her
research interests include language variation and change in spoken French
and their implications for French teaching and French teachers.

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