Age as a Determining Factor in L1 and L2 Acquisition

Antonija Šarić, Lidija Obad


This paper deals with L1 and L2 acquisition and factors which inhibit or stimulate this acquisition. It is generally agreed that L1 acquisition is neurologically, psychologically and cognitively conditioned and there is a critical period for a morphosyntactic language acquisition. However, certain aspects of L1 development can extend far into adulthood. When considering L2 acquisition, special attention is paid to the critical period which extends to the age of nine due to neurological and biological factors. Cerebral flexibility enables direct language acquisition aspiring to achieve native speaker's standard regarding the phonological and morphological aspects and the access to Universal Grammar. Early language acquisition requires less cognitive effort supporting the idea that less is more. Some latest discoveries, however, dispute this claim arguing that brain plasticity is not lost at that age. Emphasis is also given to the exercise hypothesis relating to the idea that capacity for language learning remains lifelong provided the learners start language exercise at an early age. On the other hand, maturation state hypothesis advocates that capacity for language learning declines with maturation regardless the exercise. When discussing L2 acquisition and nativelike ultimate attainment three various hypotheses are taken into consideration. The first one claims that native speaker's level is achievable only by child starters. The second one supports the former hypothesis adding that it is possible not only to child starters but also to individual late starters. The third hypothesis disputes these claims stating that nativelike ultimate attainment cannot be achieved by any of those learners.

DOI: 10.5901/jesr.2015.v5n1s1p25

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Journal of Educational and Social Research ISSN 2239-978X(Print) ISSN 2240-0524(Online)

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