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Maturational constraints and first language attrition
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Centre for Research on Bilingualism.
2009 (English)In: Language learning, ISSN 0023-8333, E-ISSN 1467-9922, Vol. 59, no 3, 687-715 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The aim of the article is to examine how first language attrition research on maturational constraints interprets and links its findings to current views on maturation in the field of second language acquisition. It is argued that attrition research exhibits certain inconsistencies in the interpretation of the structural characteristics of the critical period and the interplay between maturation and nonmaturational factors in attrition. In view of findings from first language relearning/reactivation and theoretical-methodological advances in second language research on maturation, the article proposes a reinterpretation of maturational constraints in language attrition that, first, emphasizes the gradual decline of susceptibility to attrition and, second, puts forth the conditioning function that the maturational constraints have on nonmaturational factors.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2009. Vol. 59, no 3, 687-715 p.
Keyword [en]
first language attrition • second language acquisition • age differences • critical period hypothesis • maturational constraints
National Category
General Language Studies and Linguistics
Research subject
Bilingualism Research
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-25492DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9922.2009.00521.xISI: 000268709800007OAI: diva2:199830
Part of urn:nbn:se:su:diva-8217Available from: 2008-09-25 Created: 2008-09-20 Last updated: 2012-03-08Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Age differences in first language attrition: A maturational constraints perspective
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Age differences in first language attrition: A maturational constraints perspective
2008 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis investigates age-related differences in first language (L1) attrition in a second language (L2) setting. The thesis is based on four individual studies. The aim of each of the studies has been to examine aspects of age differences that to date have remained in the background of attrition research: Study I gives an overview of research on age differences in L1 attrition and suggests a reinterpretation of age effects in attrition, using as a point of departure critical period constructs. Study I also formulates hypotheses regarding the contour and timing of attrition susceptibility and its interplay with non-biological factors. Study II investigates L1 residual knowledge and L2 ultimate attainment in international adoptees. The results suggest that a) that L1 remnants may be found if relearning activities have taken place prior to testing; b) L2 learners who have experienced a complete cut-off in L1 contact do not attain higher L2 proficiency levels than learners who have stayed in contact with the L1. The results also indicate that the level of L1 reactivation and L2 ultimate attainment are related to age of adoption. Study III examines age effects on the retention of L1 event construal patterns. The results show that the onset of puberty is a turning point for the degree of conformity with native behaviour, i.e. those who arrived in the L2 setting before puberty were more likely to exhibit non-converging patterns than those who arrived after puberty. This finding suggests that in attrition conceptual proficiency is equally affected by age as are formal language skills. Finally, Study IV explores the role of language aptitude in prepubescent attriters. The results show that nativelike grammatical intuitions are connected to language aptitude, and that speakers with high levels of language aptitude rely less on L1 contact than do speakers with low levels of language aptitude in their retention of nativelike grammatical intuitions in the L1.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Centrum för tvåspråkighetsforskning, 2008. 181 p.
Dissertations in Bilingualism, ISSN 1400-5921 ; 17
first language attrition, age differences, maturational constraints, critical period, language acquisition, bilingualism, international adoptees, conceptual proficiency, language aptitude
National Category
General Language Studies and Linguistics
Research subject
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-8217 (URN)978-91-7155-731-5 (ISBN)
Public defence
2008-10-17, hörsal 7, hus D, Universitetsvägen 10, Stockholm, 10:00
Available from: 2008-09-25 Created: 2008-09-20 Last updated: 2015-03-12Bibliographically approved

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Bylund, Emanuel
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