Presentation on theme: "How Critical is the Critical Period: The Acquisition of Definiteness in L2 Hebrew by Children with L1 Russian Sharon Armon-Lotem Bar-Ilan University ISB5,"— Presentation transcript:
How Critical is the Critical Period: The Acquisition of Definiteness in L2 Hebrew by Children with L1 Russian Sharon Armon-Lotem Bar-Ilan University ISB5, Barcelona March 20-23, 2005
2 The purpose of this study The current study aims to show that the major factor for success in L2 acquisition by children is age of first exposure, rather than length of residence, difference in learning style, or difference in task. This is seen as evidence for critical period for second language acquisition.
3 Is there a critical period for L1? Lennenberg (1967) - A biological basis for the critical period around puberty when left hemisphere lateralization is complete. Seliger (1979) - Multiple critical periods. Long (1990) - The capacity for language development is maturationally constrained. The decline reflects loss of neural plasticity There are several sensitive periods for learning different language functions.
4 Is there a critical period for L2? Johnson & Newport (1989) - Negative correlation between native-like attainment and age of arrival (before 17) Birdsong (1992) - Some adult L2 learners can become NNS, but they are the exception DeKeyser (2001) - Children’s success in becoming NNS does not depend on their linguistic aptitude. Age of exposure is a critical factor for success in acquisition
5 Other barriers to second language acquisition (Bialystok, 1997) Amount and type of exposure (Snow & Hoefnagel-Hohle, 1978) Length of residence Difference in learning style Different motivation between children and adults.
6 The focus of this study Most studies focus on proficiency in L2 of adult speakers, past puberty, and the comparison is based on age of first exposure and length of exposure. The current study focuses on the effects of age of first exposure to L2 on children’s level of attainment of that language, before puberty.
7 We tested the use of definiteness in Hebrew by children whose L1 is Russian and L2 is Hebrew
8 Definiteness in Hebrew and Russian A sharp typological difference between the two languages Russian does not mark definiteness by a definite article, whereas Hebrew does. Knowing the system in L1 does not facilitate its learning in L2. Rather, the opposite is true.
9 Use of the Definite article by Russian- Hebrew teenagers (Rom 1999) No ceiling effects among subjects even after three years of exposure No correlation between length of exposure to L2 (0.5-3 years) and level of success The definite article is used more in writing then speech Rate of acquisition varies across tasks Rate of acquisition varies across categories
10 Subjects Russian immigrant children aged 10 to 12, who have been exposed to Hebrew for six or seven years Both parents speak Russian at home, though all know Hebrew. Children speak Russian with parents, and Hebrew with siblings and friends All children study at the same school and are from middle SES
11 Testing groups Three groups of L2 Hebrew children, according to age of arrival (3, 4;6, and 6) Two groups of L1 Hebrew controls (aged 10 and 12). 10 subjects in each group
12 Tasks We tested both for comprehension and production in writing using two tasks: Yes/no judgment Sentence completion with pictures
13 Yes/No Judgment 11 categories of pragmatic and syntactic environment where the definite article should, or shouldn’t be used (cf. Fruchtman 1982) Both grammatical and ungrammatical sentences. Subject were asked to mark sentences as linguistically correct and incorrect
14 Sentence completion with pictures 5 categories of pragmatic and syntactic environment where the definite article should, or shouldn’t be used (cf. Fruchtman 1982) Subjects were presented with a picture and were asked to complete a sentence describing the picture.
15 Findings - Judgment Task Number and percentage of correct results: a cross-group comparison 77%66% 85%90%
16 A cross-group comparison Children who were exposed to Hebrew from the age of three scored significantly better than those arriving at a later age. They scored marginally lower than their age matched controls. Children who were exposed to Hebrew after the age of 4;6 scored significantly lower than their age matched controls.
17 Group profile: Individual scores within groups Number of correct responses [N= 26]
18 Comparing the 3/7 group with the 6/6 group on the different categories On nine of the eleven categories, 3/7 scored better than the 6/6 group, on one category they scored the same, and on one worse.
19 Comparing the 3/7 group with the 4/6 group on the different categories On eight of the eleven categories, 3/7 scored better than the 4/6 group, on two category they scored the same, and on one worse.
20 Comparison across the three groups There was no significant difference between the 4/6 and 6/6 groups. Only three categories showed negative correlation between success and age for all three groups.
21 Comparing the 3/7 group with their aged matched group on the different categories On eight of the eleven categories, the 3/7 scored worse than the 10 group, on two categories they scored the same, and on two - better.
22 Findings – Sentence Completion Similar results of a negative correlation between success and age were found on the picture elicitation task, with the 3/7 group scoring significantly better then the other two groups. Percentage of correct results: a cross-group comparison
23 Comparison across groups on the different categories On three of the five categories, 3/7 scored better than both groups, and on one categories they scored the same. All groups scored at ceiling on the fifth category
24 Comparison across tasks No significant differences were found between the two tasks Percentage of correct results across tasks
25 Comparison to Russian-Hebrew teenagers with shorter exposure No ceiling effects among subjects even after seven years of exposure Rate of acquisition varies across categories Correlation between length of exposure to L2 (6-7 years) and level of success Rate of acquisition did not vary across tasks
26 Length vs. age of exposure Rom (1999) – No correlation between length exposure to L2 (0.5-3 years) and level of success We found correlation between length of exposure to L2 (6-7 years) and level of success ? Age of exposure, rather than length of exposure, is the major factor.
27 Conclusion Given the young age of arrival for all three groups and the long period of exposure, the differences are striking. The major factor for success in L2 acquisition by children is age of first exposure rather than length of residence, difference in learning style, or difference in task. For children, the critical period is most critical, though it’s effects might fade away with time.
28 Thank You
29 Categories for use of definite article: Judgment task. Cat1 - First vs. second reference: I ate an/*the apple. The/*an apple was tasty. Cat2 - Abstract and Generic nouns What did you do for the/*a world Cat3 - Unique term The history of the western world is important Cat4 - Noun-Adjective agreement Dan ra’a et ha-mexonit *(ha-)aduma Dan saw acc the-car the red ‘Dan saw the red car’ Cat5 - Quantifier -Noun All the children entered
30 Cat6 - definiteness for possession: koev li ha-rosh. ‘I have a headache’. Cat7 - Noun + Free Possessor ata makir et ha-ben sheli? ‘Do you know my son?’ Cat8 - Noun+bound possessor - Adjective agreement xaveri ha-blondini me’od nexmad Cat9 - conjunction The boys and the girls left Cat10 - Supperlative forms Yerushalayim hi ha-ir ha-yafa beyoter Cat11 - Definiteness resistant areas kaniti me’at matanot la-yeled
31 Categories for use of definite article: Picture elicitation task Generic nouns (Cat1) Where does the light come from? It comes from _________ (the sun) First vs. second reference (Cat2&3) David picked _______ (a/*the ball). He through _____ (the/*a ball) to Jenny. Noun + Possessive pronoun (Cat4) David maca ________(et ha-maftexot) shelo David found __________ acc the-keys his ‘David found his keys’