Native language and foreign language acquisition

Native language and foreign language acquisition

REVIEWS 197 Winitz, Harris (ed.), Native Language and Foreign Language Acquisition. New York: The New York Academy of Sciences, 1981, 379 pp., $75.0...

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Winitz, Harris (ed.), Native Language and Foreign Language Acquisition. New York: The New York Academy of Sciences, 1981, 379 pp., $75.00 (Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Vol. 379). This volume is based on the contributions to a conference on “Native Language and Foreign Language Acquisition”, held on 15-16 January 1981 by The New York Academy of Sciences and co-sponsored by The University of Missouri at Kansas City, Missouri; the conference organizer and the editor of the present volume is Harris Winitz, a member of the Department of Psychology of the host university. The book contains 25 papers in six chapters (“Parts”), or 26 papers if the “Concluding Remarks and Summary” (360-378) of the editor are included. According to statements in the editor’s preface and in his concluding remarks, the overall objective of the conference was “to engage in serious discussion of the relationship between native-language acquisition and foreign-language acquisition” (IX). General questions within this framework were: (1) similarities and/or differences of basic and target language acquisition (or learning), (2) assessment of these relationships, (3) the relevancy of the methodological procedures employed in different approaches for other areas of inquiry, and (4) the implications of these for basic and target language teaching (X, 378). The editor maintains (376) “a theoretical framework was presented (at the conference) that is certain to prevail throughout the decade of the 1980’s”. Oddly enough, two pages later he states (378) rather contradictorily that “no firm conclusions were made”. Nevertheless, in view of the number of internationally respected researchers among the contributors, and the generally high quality of their papers, the reader is entitled to expect to learn something useful about the “theoretical framework” promised by the editor. Such a theoretical frarnework presupposes a consistent metatheoretical orientation and a careful arrangement of the contributions. The book is subdivided into six chapters, or parts: Part I: “Differences and similarities between first and second language acquisition”, contributors: Alatis/De Marco; Lambert; McLaughlin; Ervin-Tripp; Part ZZ: “Neurophysiological processes in language acquisition”, contributors: Kinsbourne; Whitaker/ Bub/Leventer; Diller; Parr ZZZ:“Phonology and phonetics”, contributors: Cole; Macken/ Ferguson; Menn; Ingram; Part IV: “Syntax, semantics, and pragmatics-first language”, contributors: Nelson; Bloom; Bowerman; Bates/MacWhinney (whose paper should have been included in Part V); Part V: “Syntax, semantics, and pragmatics--second language”, contributors: Wode; Snow; Cook; Long; Burling; Part VI: “Implications for learning a second language”, contributors: Winitz; Belasco, Asher, and two papers by Gary/Gary. A few questions arise in connection with the editor’s differentiation of the topic into six parts, first, concerning the interrelation of the first five parts, and second, concerning the relation of the first five parts to the sixth part. One assumes that the first five parts deal with sixth, from a metatheoretical point of view, knowledge. Implicit here is the usual notion knowledge is relevant to language teaching.

areas of scientific knowledge, and that the deals with areas of applied, or technical that a synthesis between the two types of Yet it is not immediately clear how the



organization of the papers in the first five parts contributes to such a synthesis. One wonders, for instance, why Part III is not subdivided into sections on Ll and L2 phonology and phonetics, or why Parts IV and V are not subsumed under a single heading (as in Part III), or differentiated according to categories of traditional grammatical description, viz. syntax, semantics and pragmatics, respectively. In view of the theoretical importance attributed to the conference, it is surprising to note how little effort is devoted to distinguishing among the theoretical standpoints and the objects of investigation in the different papers. Scientific research is guided largely by hypotheses about abstracted, highly simplified model representations (model objects) of supposedly real, intersubjectively shared spatiotemporal objects, events or processes. Yet a theoretical model never actually explains real phenomena, strictly speaking, but rather only those aspects of such phenomena which, in whatever abstracted and simplified form, happen to be represented in its model object. Moreover, model objects are themselves often products of unquestioned general assumptions about the nature of the phenomena they are meant to represent. For this reason, distinguishing among the various types of theoretical models and model objects discussed in the conference papers, and understanding the assumptions implicit in these, are absolute prerequisites to accounting for interrelations among models and explaining their implications for language teaching. Some of the contributors stress the importance of describing language from an autonomous point of view. In these papers, the object ‘language’ is implicitly modelled as an intersubjective normative reality which exists independently of spatiotemporal events and processes and which has a fixed structure based on a formal grammar of constitutive rules. The papers of Burling, McLaughlin, Wode, Belasco, Bloom, Cook and Ervin-Tripp (the latter two under the special aspect of speech acts) fit into this category. A systematic account of the way actual spatiotemporal linguistic phenomena become incorporated into the notions of language, or structure, or grammer in autonomous linguistic theory is not given by any of these contributors. A desideratum for future research would appear to be a stringent metatheoretical discussion of the abstractive processes underlying this concept of language and grammar. The contributions based on nonautonomous scientific methodologies offer more rewarding and insightful reading. In these papers, the object ‘language’ is modelled as an intersubjective spatiotemporal reality which interacts with, and is influenced by, a wide variety of extralinguistic spatiotemporal events and processes. Two areas of interest and general approaches can be distinguished within this group of contributions. First, an interest in what Lambert calls micro issues, or issues involving language and psychic processes or language and its neuroanatomic basis. Among the topics dealt with here are questions of age and language acquisition, age and phonological development, phonological universals, and motivational structures. In general, investigators in this domain rely on close observation of linguistic and neuropsychological processes. Krashen’s and Alatis/De Marco’s contributions transcend traditional psychological approaches to motivation and refer to pertinent politico-socio-psychological parameters, thus illustrating the interdependency of psychological (individual) and social (group) influences in language acquisition. Among the neuropsychological topics discussed in the volume (the authors of Part II and Lambert), are the maturation of the brain and related issues such as lateralization, critical period, plasticity, dendritic arborization, etc. Cortical areas of



language representation are also discussed (Kinsbourne), as is the age-dependent for the acquisition of a second phonological system (Diller).


A second area of general nonautonomous interest in the volume is what we might call macro issues, or issues involving socio-cultural influences on language acquisition. The nonautonomous sociocultural contributions offer insights into the politico-socio-pyschological aspects of language and language variants in contact or in competition, and discuss language prestige and social power as opposed to downgraded (immigrant) languages. Alatis/De Marco and Lambert draw attention to the ideological positions underlying multi- or monolingual tendencies. Their essentially social-psychological argument is complemented by a few ideas on interactional and conversational aspects of language behavior. Whereas, for example, Long contends that in a linguistic interaction between a native and non-native speaker, the native speaker will tend to sustain the interaction through modification/simplification of linguistic input or interactional schema, Burling is of the opinion that no such thing happens among educated peer interactants with different basic languages. The regulative rules of social interaction seem to overrule predominantly linguistic considerations. Part VI, as mentioned above, is the weakest part of the book from a metatheoretical viewpoint. Language teaching involves technical knowledge; it draws on common knowledge and on intuitively selected findings from diverse fields of science. Sometimes it appears as if the highly abstract theoretical models alluded to in papers on the implications of scientific research for language teaching are chosen in the hope they might yield fluke hits for application, either as conceptual schemata or as guidelines. Having read the papers in Part VI, the present reviewer’s scepticism in this respect is more enhanced than alleviated. In sum, the present volume can be recommended if one is looking for succinct detailed analyses in the fields mentioned, but the reader will find a “theoretical framework” which meets his metatheoretical expectations only in nuce. Horst Arndt Seminar fur Englisch Universitlt Koln Gronewaldstrasse 2 D-5000 Koln 4 1 Federal Republic of Germany

Apelt, Walter, Motivation und Fremdsprachenunterricht. pldie, 1981, 165 pp., M 18.00.

Leipzig: VEB Verlag Enzyklo-

Apelts Buch stellt m.W. im deutschen Sprachraum den ersten Versuch dar, in Form einer Monographie den Problembereich Motivation im Fremdsprachenunterricht umfassend darzustellen. “Umfassend” meint dabei nicht so sehr Luckenlosigkeit bis ins Detail, sondern vielmehr die konsequente Ubertragung griindlicher theoretischer Uberlegungen zu zentralen Aspekten in Handlungsandwisungen fiir die Unterrichstspraxis, die Beriicksichtigung gesellschaftlich wie such individuell bedingter Faktorenkomplexe und