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35. Theoretical Perspectives on the L2 Acquisition of Spanish

SILVINA MONTRUL


Subject Linguistics » Applied Linguistics

Key-Topics child language, generative grammar

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405198820.2012.00037.x


Extract

The study of language acquisition seeks to explain how the individual constructs an abstract mental grammar through exposure to input. For example, how does the infant starting with apparently no grammar eventually develops native-speaker competence and use of the language? How does an adult who already knows a language learn a second language? The nature–nurture debate has figured prominently in theoretical accounts of this mystery, although few will deny that some sort of special human capacity together with exposure to the target language bring about full native language attainment. Theories, however, tend to prioritize one factor over the other: whereas the theory of Universal Grammar ( Pinker 1989 ; Chomsky 1981, 1995 ; Crain and Lillo-Martin 1999 ; Snyder 2007 ) emphasizes the role of the genetic endowment in systematic language growth (nature), empiricist approaches ( Bates 1979 ; Bybee and Hopper 2001 ; Tomasello 2003 ; Müller Gathercole and Hoff 2009 ) stress instead how language emerges piecemeal from interaction with the environment (nurture). This chapter presents the learning problem of second language acquisition (Section 2) and the basic tenets of these two major theoretical positions (Section 3). I discuss empirical findings from the acquisition of Spanish morphosyntax and lexical semantics that speak to this theoretical divide (Section 4). I show that because ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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