Young-Scholten was born in Hanover, New Hampshire and obtained a Masters in linguistics at the University of Washington, Seattle. Her PhD at the same institution concerned the structure of phonology in a second language. She has been a senior lecturer at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom since September 2006.
The Minimal Trees Hypothesis
Young-Scholten is most notable within linguistics and SLA for developing the Minimal Trees Hypothesis with Anna Vainikka, an "important theory," where 'tree' is a metaphor of syntax for the branching structure showing how words of a phrase or sentence co-relate. The hypothesis concerns what aspects of a language learner's first language (L1) is carried over into the grammar of their second language (L2), in addition to mechanisms of universal grammar that allow new acquisition to take place.
Whereas many researchers lean towards a 'Full Transfer' view in which all the L1 grammar transfers - i.e. the initial state of the L2 is the final state of the first - Young-Scholten and Vainikka have argued that only lexical categories (e.g. the noun phrase) are drawn from the L1, and that functional categories (e.g. the inflectional phrase that represents tense) do not; rather, the learner 'grows' new ones because they start their L2 acquisition with only a 'minimal' syntactic tree.
Several competing accounts for the role of transfer and universal grammar persist in SLA; the Minimal Trees Hypothesis remains particularly controversial, and has been strongly critiqued in syntactic research on both empirical and conceptual grounds: some researchers argue that linguistic behaviour does not follow the model, and others claim that it is theoretically misconceived. For example, the idea that a component of language could be absent from the initial stage, so that the system selectively extracts only one part of the L1, is unacceptable to those who favour 'Full Transfer' rather than 'Partial Transfer'.
Second language acquisition and applied linguistics
Young-Scholten's primary research focus involves the phonology of second language acquisition, particularly in German and English as L2s. Data collected from three adolescent native speakers learning German in Germany has formed the basis of several papers. The different paths of acquisition that the three speakers took - acquiring German pronunciation deviantly or not at all - led Young-Scholten to argue that the nature of the linguistic input they received was crucial to their performance. For example, one learner whose exposure to German came largely through orthography (writing) did not acquire pronunciations that are unrepresented in written German, despite constantly hearing them.
Young-Scholten is also involved in applied linguistics research on exceptional language acquisition, e.g. where learning is atypical due to problems such as dyslexia or specific language impairment; the comprehension approach to foreign language instruction; and the (mainly negative) effect of orthography on the early stages of language learning.
- Second language acquisition
- First language
- Second language
- Comprehension approach
- Monitor Theory
- Young-Scholten (1993).
- Vainikka & Young-Scholten (1994; 1996; 1998).
- Slabakova, Roumyana (2001). Telicity in the second language. John Benjamins. p. 16. ISBN 978-90-272-2494-1.
- Vainikka & Young-Scholten (2003).
- Unsworth, Parodi, Sorace & Young-Scholten (2005).
- e.g. White (1991), for French.
- White (2003: 68-78), for review; Schwartz & Sprouse (1994); Schwartz (1998).
- Schwartz & Sprouse (1996).
- Young-Scholten (2004a; 2004b).
- Young-Scholten & Piske (forthcoming).
- Young-Scholten (2002); Young-Scholten, Akita & Cross (1999). For earlier work on 'positive' and 'negative' input, see Young-Scholten (1994; 1995).
- This article incorporates material from the Citizendium article "Martha Young-Scholten", which is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License but not under the GFDL.
- Schwartz BD (1998) 'On two hypotheses of ʺtransferʺ in L2A: minimal trees and absolute L1 influence. In Flynn S, Martohardojono G & O'Neil W (eds) The Generative Study of Second Language Acquisition. pp. 35–59. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
- Schwartz BD & Sprouse RA (1994) 'Word order and nominative case in nonnative language acquisition: a longitudinal study of (L1 Turkish) German interlanguage.' In Hoekstra T & Schwartz BD (eds) Language Acquisition Studies in Generative Grammar: Papers in Honor of Kenneth Wexler from the 1991 GLOW Workshops. pp. 317–368. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
- Schwartz BD & Sprouse RA (1996) 'L2 cognitive states and the full transfer/full access model.' Second Language Research 12: 40-72.
- Unsworth S, Parodi T, Sorace A & Young-Scholten M (eds) (2005) Paths of Development in L1 and L2 Acquisition. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
- Vainikka A & Young-Scholten M (1994) 'Direct access to X'-theory: evidence from Korean and Turkish adults learning German.' In Hoekstra T & Schwartz BD (eds) Language Acquisition Studies in Generative Grammar: Papers in Honor of Kenneth Wexler from the 1991 GLOW Workshops. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
- Vainikka A & Young-Scholten M (1996) 'Gradual development of L2 phrase structure.' Second Language Research 12: 7-39.
- Vainikka A & Young-Scholten M (1998) 'Functional categories and related mechanisms in child second language acquisition.' In Flynn S, Martohardojono G & O'Neil W (eds) The Generative Study of Second Language Acquisition.
- Vainikka A & Young-Scholten M (2003) 'Review of Roger Hawkins (2001): Second Language Syntax: a Generative Introduction.' Lingua.
- White L (1991) 'Adverb placement in second language acquisition: some effects of positive and negative evidence in the classroom.' Second Language Research 7: 133-161.
- White L (2003) Second Language Acquisition and Universal Grammar. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Young-Scholten M (1993) The Acquisition of Prosodic Structure in a Second Language. Tübingen: Niemeyer.
- Young-Scholten M (1994) 'Positive evidence and ultimate attainment in L2 phonology.' Second Language Research 10: 193-214.
- Young-Scholten, M. (1995) 'The negative effects of 'positive' evidence on L2 phonology.' In Eubank L, Selinker L & Sharwood Smith M (eds) The Current State of Interlanguage. Amsterdam: Benjamins. pp. 107–121.
- Young-Scholten M (2002) 'Orthographic input in L2 phonological development.' In Burmeister P, Piske T and Rohde A (eds) An Integrated View of Language Development - Papers in Honour of Henning Wode. Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier. pp. 263–279.
- Young-Scholten M (2004a) 'Prosodic constraints on allophonic distribution in adult L2 acquisition.' International Journal of Bilingualism 8: 67-77.
- Young-Scholten M (2004b) 'Longitudinal treasures out of Pandora's Box.' Voies vers le Plurilinguisme. Presses Universitaires de Franche-Comté.
- Young-Scholten M, Akita M & Cross N (1999). 'Focus on form in phonology: orthographic exposure as a promoter of epenthesis.' In Robinson P & Jungheim NO (eds) Pragmatics and Pedagogy: Proceedings of the Third PacSLRF. Volume 2. Tokyo: Aoyama Gakuin University. pp. 227–233.
- Young-Scholten M & Piske T (eds) (forthcoming). Input Matters. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
- Martha Young Scholten: Newcastle University =staff profile.
- 'Adult first-time readers in a second language.' On-line article at developingteachers.com.