Generative second-language acquisition

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The generative approach to second language (L2) acquisition applies theoretical insights developed from within generative linguistics to investigate how second languages are learned by adults and children. Research is conducted in syntax, phonology, morphology, phonetics and semantics.

The main questions in generative second language acquisition include whether Universal Grammar is available to the adult second language learner to guide acquisition, as it is to the first language learner; whether second language learners can reset linguistic parameters; whether second-language learners experience difficulties interfacing between different modules of the grammar; and whether child second language acquisition differs from that of adults. As generative second language research endeavors to explain the totality of L2 acquisition phenomena, it is also concerned with investigating the extent of linguistic transfer, maturational effects on acquisition, and why some learners fail to acquire a target-like L2 grammar even with abundant input.

Research in generative second-language acquisition is presented at a range of conferences, including: GASLA (Generative Approaches to Second Language Acquisition), GALANA (Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition - North America), and BUCLD (Boston University Conference on Language Development).

Prominent researchers of the topic include Suzanne Flynn of MIT, Bonnie Schwartz of University of Hawaii, Antonella Sorace of University of Edinburgh, and Lydia White of McGill University.