Journal of sociolinguistics 2002 Piller

Journal of sociolinguistics 2002 Piller - Journal of...

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# Published by Blackwell Publishers Ltd. 2002 108 Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 1JF, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden MA 02148, USA. Journal of Sociolinguistics 6/2, 2002: 179±206 Passing for a native speaker: Identity and success in second language learning Ingrid Piller University of Sydney, Australia In sociolinguistic interviews for a research project on cross-cultural marriage, 27 out of 73 second language (L2) users of English and German were found to claim that they had achieved high-level pro®ciency in their L2 and that they were passing for native speakers in some contexts. Based on these insiders' accounts, the article provides a description of passing for a native speaker as a (frequently overlooked) form of L2 ability. The introduction discusses ethno- graphic research into success in second language learning (SLL) and explains why other approaches tend to identify a signi®cantly lower incidence of high- level achievement. Quantitative analysis of the data suggests that the age of ®rst exposure to the target language is far less crucial to success than has so far been assumed. The L2 users themselves distinguish between age of ®rst exposure and age when they `really' started to learn their L2, thereby pointing to the role of motivation and agency in successful SLL. Qualitative analysis of the L2 users' accounts indicates that, for them, passing practices are quite di²erent from widely held assumptions about passing. Passing is described as a temporary, context-, audience- and medium-speci®c performance. The article ends with a discussion of the evaluation of passing and its role in (perceived) success in SLL. KEYWORDS: Passing, second language learning, ultimate attainment, critical period hypothesis, native speaker, identity, ideology 1. INTRODUCTION Although research into second language learning (SLL) has traditionally tended to concentrate `on beginning or intermediate learners rather than on advanced learners' (Spolsky 2000: 159), interest in advanced learners has grown in recent years (Birdsong 1992; Bongaerts 1999; Bongaerts, Mennen and van der Slik 2000; Bongaerts, Planken and Schils 1995; Bongaerts, Van Summeren, Planken and Schils 1997; Coppieters 1987; Cranshaw 1998; Ioup, Boustagui, El Tigi and Moselle 1994; Moyer 1999; White and Genesee 1996). The disregard for advanced second language (L2) learners in many quarters of applied linguistics is due to a widespread assumption held in the ®eld, the Critical Period Hypothesis (CPH), which goes back to Lenneberg (1967) and
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PILLER 180 # Blackwell Publishers Ltd. 2002 posits maturational constraints on language acquisition. While the existence of a critical period for ®rst language acquisition is uncontroversial, its existence and form are much more controversial in SLL as is, for instance, evidenced by the Flege (1987)±Patkowski (1990) controversy more than a decade ago, and it has recently come under renewed scrutiny (Birdsong 1999; Marinova-Todd, Marshall and Snow 2000). However, for the time being, the CPH enjoys wide currency in the ®eld, with recent textbooks usually drawing on Long's (1990) widely quoted and in¯uential overview article. As Bialystok (1997: 116) points
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Journal of sociolinguistics 2002 Piller - Journal of...

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