eurosla - Conservative Pattern Accumulation in Foreign...

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Conservative Pattern Accumulation in Foreign Language Learning Robert Bley-Vroman Department of ESL, PhD Program in SLA, University of Hawai‘i EUROSLA 6, Nijmegen, 31 May–2 June 1996 [email protected] 1. Introduction Acquisition Device Input "Grammar" Desirable features of acquisition theory: For child language development: i. guaranteed success (under ordinary circumstances) ii. little room for variability in outcome iii. little place of input structure (correction, frequency, etc.) For SLA: i. no guarantee of success ii. accommodation of variability, including near-natives iii. compatibility with our increasing knowledge of (a) input/task structure (b) attention/motivation Suspicious facts about foreign language learning: Clustering failure “Stage seepage” / optionality Difficulty in showing “triggering” Difficulty in acquiring “subtle facts” about constructions “The adult relies on the native language to provide a general idea of what language is like and proceeds by accumulating peripheral facts , rather than by setting parameters and deducing consequences. The end result can be a system of knowledge which, while weakly equivalent to the native language grammar in certain areas, has a quite different origin and, presumably, a different psychological status.” [emphasis added] Bley-Vroman 1991, p. 42
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p. 2 2. Pattern acquisition Syntactic patterns are phrase structures: configuration of (sub)categories. The initially available attributes for defining categories come from either: The native language The L2 input [Other sources (instruction, earlier language experience, etc.)] This (rather than UG) is the major constraint on the system. A given element is both an instance of a category and one or more subcategories; man is a noun, a common noun, etc. admired the anteater is VP, a finite VP, a past tense VP, an admire -VP. besuchte der Mann seinen Freund is both a S and an S inv . Gestern besuchte der Mann seinen Freund is an instance of both patterns: Adv S Adv S inv Since two patterns can be true of the same input, two patterns can coexist, perhaps with varying strengths. Categorization depends on noticing (and, perhaps, on understanding). Since noticing is important, there will be frequency and salience effects. Different learners will notice different things. Input will have a much greater effect than in child language development. As an instance of human categorization, we may expect the usual categorization phenomena—for example, basic levels and prototypes. Deductive relationships (as given by UG) among patterns or from (abstract or concrete morphological) features to patterns do not exist. Relationships among patterns may be registered (perhaps like GPSG metarules). A
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eurosla - Conservative Pattern Accumulation in Foreign...

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