Change search
ReferencesLink to record
Permanent link

Direct link
Age of L2 acquisition and degree of nativelikeness – listener perception versus linguistic scrutiny.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Centre for Research on Bilingualism.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Centre for Research on Bilingualism.
2009 (English)In: Language learning, ISSN 0023-8333, Vol. 59, no 2, 249-306 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The incidence of nativelikeness in adult second language acquisition is a controversial issue in SLA research. Although some researchers claim that any learner, regardless of age of acquisition, can attain nativelike levels of second language (L2) proficiency, others hold that attainment of nativelike proficiency is, in principle, impossible. The discussion has traditionally been framed within the paradigm of a critical period for language acquisition and guided by the question of whether SLA is constrained by the maturation of the brain. The work presented in this article can be positioned among those studies that have focused exclusively on the apparent counterexamples to the critical period. We report on a large-scale study of Spanish/Swedish bilinguals (n = 195) with differing ages of onset of acquisition (<1–47 years), all of whom identify themselves as potentially nativelike in their L2. Listening sessions with native-speaker judges showed that only a small minority of those bilinguals who had started their L2 acquisition after age 12, but a majority of those with an age of onset below this age, were actually perceived as native speakers of Swedish. However, when a subset (n = 41) of those participants who did pass for native speakers was scrutinized in linguistic detail with a battery of 10 highly complex, cognitively demanding tasks and detailed measurements of linguistic performance, representation, and processing, none of the late learners performed within the native-speaker range; in fact, the results revealed also that only a few of the early learners exhibited actual nativelike competence and behavior on all measures of L2 proficiency that were employed. Our primary interpretation of the results is that nativelike ultimate attainment of a second language is, in principle, never attained by adult learners and, furthermore, is much less common among child learners than has previously been assumed.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Wiley-Blackwell , 2009. Vol. 59, no 2, 249-306 p.
Keyword [en]
adult second language acquisition, age of onset, critical period hypothesis (CPH), listener perception, maturational constraints, multiple-task design, nativelikeness, near-nativeness, L1 Spanish, L2 Swedish
National Category
General Language Studies and Linguistics General Language Studies and Linguistics
Research subject
Bilingualism Research; Linguistics
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-33343DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9922.2009.00507.xISI: 000265935400001OAI: diva2:283416
Age of onset and ultimate attatinment in second language acquisition (Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, dnr 1999-0383:01)
Available from: 2009-12-26 Created: 2009-12-23 Last updated: 2010-01-02

Open Access in DiVA

No full text

Other links

Publisher's full text
By organisation
Centre for Research on Bilingualism
In the same journal
Language learning
General Language Studies and LinguisticsGeneral Language Studies and Linguistics

Search outside of DiVA

GoogleGoogle Scholar
The number of downloads is the sum of all downloads of full texts. It may include eg previous versions that are now no longer available

Altmetric score

Total: 451 hits
ReferencesLink to record
Permanent link

Direct link