Talk:Second-language acquisition

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Define "learner language"[edit]

"Learner language" is not a common term lay people know. After reading the article introduction and learner language section introduction, I am left wondering wtf it means. Define it, create a "learner language" article, or use a clearer term (interlanguage?)

A learner language is the target language as it exists in the process of acquiring the language. ie, it is the closest approximation of the target language that the learners can make at any given time. Finding a reference that actually takes the time to directly define the term is difficult, though. I've just been through 3 different encyclopedias of language learning wihtout any success. — robbiemuffin page talk 17:57, 18 May 2008 (UTC)
Great, that's a confirmation that it's a quirk of your experience. I'm replacing the expression with "learned language". Lycurgus (talk) 19:46, 31 December 2009 (UTC)
Oh, now I get it. "Learner language" makes much more sense for someone with background knowledge. I think we need to be much more careful in our definitions than this. If we use "learned language" it sounds like the learning from Krashen's acquisition-learning hypothesis, and also learner language is a very real concept in SLA. A cursory Google search turned up this book, for example: "Analysing Learner Language" by Rod Ellis, ISBN 978-0194316347. From page 5: "Learner language is the oral or written language produced by learners." I don't think this is such a controversial concept, and the distinction is important for understanding the subject. We probably do need to explain it better for lay readers, however. I'll change the section headers back and have a go at simplifying it. GypsyJiver (drop me a line) 04:52, 23 November 2010 (UTC). (Actually, the above quote is from page 4 of the book - my mistake.) GypsyJiver (drop me a line) 05:04, 23 November 2010 (UTC)

I've read the article, and I've read the above discussion, but I do not get the difference between learner language and interlanguage. My best guess is that they are the same, but used in different contexts: Learner language is used in general to describe how a learner is talking at some point, and specifically for hen discussing collected data (corpora) to be analyzed. Interlanguage is used specifically when in the context of Selinkers interlanguage theory, that learners converge towards a target language. Am I right, or could you please help me out? (talk) 16:32, 10 January 2013 (UTC)

Breaking up into new articles[edit]

The section "Summary of Research" and "New Directions" need to be moved to decrease the length of the page. Simply moving the information to the critical period page would only bloat that page to gargantuan size, and I would also have to move the links and references at the bottom there too, and I wouldn't want to remove references relevant to the rest of the article. The major long contributions were made by A whois search came up with a result from Amsterdam. They have a large linguistics group there. Perhaps it was written by an American or British Grad Student. Rpchase 03:13, 21 February 2006 (UTC)

I am going to move the "Summary" of language acquisition to another page. Rpchase 02:53, 21 February 2006 (UTC)

This article is about 4900 words long, so any substantial new content should be farmed out to a sub-article. I see this as a survey article in the future, with sub-articles on each of the different fields of SLA. Lots of work to do here! :-) -- Visviva 03:52, 23 Nov 2004 (UTC)

I have created a new page for the Critical Period Hypothesis - this topic is currently spread over several articles, including critical period and language acquisition as well as this one. As this SLA article is becoming too long, and since the CPH - I would argue - is fundamental enough to merit a page of its own, I have copied all the content from these pages, and added a short introduction. Arguably, much of the detail on this page can now be cut. Jsteph 11:23, 8 December 2006 (UTC)

Effective strategies etc[edit]

Someone should really put in a paragraph on what the consensus is wrt. current state-of-the-art in stategies and techniques for L2a.

Missing reference[edit]

The article says:

Nation (2000) reviews various studies which indicate that about 98% of the words in running text should be previously known in order for extensive reading to be effective.

But Nation (2000) is not on the list of references. Taw 08:33, 16 November 2005 (UTC)

Is there anyone working on this article at the moment?[edit]

I think there is scope for shortening this article while keeping the same content. Is there any plans to add other SLA topics like phonology acquisition (e.g. phonological templates), memory strategy, comparison between SLA and FLA? --RichardCLeen 21:36, 17 December 2005 (UTC)

"The objective of this study is to investigate whether capacity for vocabulary acquisition decreases with age."

This quote makes me think that the Summary of Critical Period Research to date section is copied from some article. Is there a citation?


I see the article mentions Dörnyei (2001) put there is no information in the references section. Does anyone have the actual reference?DDD DDD 01:33, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

External Links[edit]

I fixed one broken link and removed some others that did not provide sufficient content for warrant their inclusion. The links have been problematic elsewhere and have nothing to do with the content on this page. They also also contain objectionable amounts of advertising and it is clear that they were being used only to promote the websites - even having multiple links to the same url on this page. I left the one link to because it is potentially related - but the wiki guidelines do state that discussion forums should not be linked. In the past, the website owner has repeatedly reposted the links (promising to improve the content of the site) and that may happen again here. If anyone believes that it is vital to have a list of TESOL programs linked to the article, an up-to-date, ad-free list is available at the website. Guidelines for external links can be found at Wikipedia:External_links.

Thank you, anon editor above, for this patrolling and housekeeping work. The price of freedom (from spam links) is eternal vigilance! BrainyBabe 14:21, 11 June 2007 (UTC)

I removed the link to "free variation" under variability because it did not link to free variation as is concerned with variability, but to free variation as is concerned with linguistics, which is completely different. 14:05, 10 January 2008 —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk)

Competence performance distinction[edit]

The article says, "This distinguishes competence, a person's idealized knowledge of language rules, from performance, the imperfect realization of these rules. Thus, a person may be interrupted and not finish a sentence, but still know how to make a complete sentence." The logic of the second sentence in the pair does not follow from the first in a way that makes this a useful description of Chomsky's competence versus performance distinction; furthermore, the explanation of the notion of performance is misleading. Chomsky(1965)makes this distinction as a way of outlining which particular aspect of linguistic phenomena he was interested in pursuing (i.e. using as the basis for his discussion). Rather than refer to people's actual (real-world) utterances as a source for data, his opinion was that theoretical linguistics should refer only to the "abstract and hidden representation of language knowledge held inside our minds" (Mitchell & Myles, 2004, p. 10). I suggest removing these sentences from the article. Chomsky, N. (1965). Aspects on the theory of syntax. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Mitchell, R. and F. Myles. (2004). Second Language Learning Theories. New York: Oxford UP. Darrellpenta 22:55, 15 July 2007 (UTC)

There were a number of SLA researchers who worked under the generative grammar (P&P) framework (e.g., White, 1992, 1996, 2003; Schwartz & Sprouse, 1996; Martohardjono, 1995; Flynn, 1996 etc.) and the distinction between competence and performance has been the foundation of their studies. I agree that the notion of performance is not same as that Chomsky originally proposed (basically, refutation against data-oriented corpus studies until the early 1950s'), but I think it's worth mentioning in this article. For example, one of the SLA handbooks (Richie & Bhatia, 1996) is based on this kind of assumption. Maybe, this article should refer to one of those UG-based studies. --Tomonori 00:47, 18 July 2007 (UTC)

Second Language Acquisition and Language Education[edit]

I just wanted to comment that the distinction between these two terms is quite large and so I don't believe that this Second Language Acquisition (SLA) article should be merged with Language Education. Gass and Selinker (Second Language Acquisition, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004, p.2) have suggested that Second Language Acquisition is not only concerned with Language Education. In addition to Language Pedogogy, SLA is also concerned with Linguistics, Cross-Cultural Communication, Language Policy and Language Planning. I would like to suggest that Wikipedia keep these topics separate. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Quimbys (talkcontribs) 09:01, 5 October 2007 (UTC)

I agree with the first half. SLA is very obviously not the same as (second) language education: (i) some people acquire a second language despite having no education in it, and as many of us can confirm from embarrassing personal experience, (ii) a huge number of people undergo second language education with little acquisition to show for it.

SLA is also related to first language acquisition, and of course to linguistics. Second-language education (for English, usually called ELT, TESOL, etc.) is related to pedagogy etc etc as well as to SLA.

Moreover, universities and academic publishers acknowledge that SLA and second-language education are very different. -- Hoary 09:11, 5 October 2007 (UTC)

It seems to me that the term 'SLA' has basically come to mean a fairly narrow approach to doing research on learning an L2--such as the experiments reported by Ellis. That is a shame because this sort of experimentation is so fruitless. But its an undertaking that a number of university-based academics gets paid to pursue, so it has taken on an undeserved legitimacy. It's now quite distinct from 'applied linguistics'(AL) since so little of linguistics informs the concepts and interpretations of current SLA research. (talk) 06:28, 10 July 2010 (UTC)

Second Language Acquisition and Language Education should not be merged[edit]

Although the previous comment is substatially more supportive of this claim.

Language Education could imply language learning in schools and only within schools —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:32, 2 November 2007 (UTC)

L2 Morphosyntax???[edit]

What is L2 Morphosyntax? And what does it mean to have few departures from it? Could it be its own article? Theshibboleth (talk) 05:16, 6 May 2008 (UTC).

Original source[edit]

I was worried that part of this article might have been plagiarised, but that doesn't appear to be the case. for those who want to check, see the original contribution and User talk:Visviva#SLA for comments on ownership. GypsyJiver (drop me a line) 15:22, 18 November 2010 (UTC)

Hyphen or no hyphen?[edit]

I see that a lot of the Wikipedia articles about "second language acquisition" have recently been moved to include a hyphen, as in "second-language acquisition". I'm not sure about this move, as the vast majority of sources out there don't use a hyphen. (See this Google Scholar search for "second-language acquisition", and note that the search seems to turn up the same results with or without the hyphen.) There are some sources out there that use the hyphen, but the ratio appears to be quite low.

Confusing the issue, there is also the fact that the term can refer both to the process of learning a second language and to the academic study of the language-learning process. I think the hyphen makes sense in the sense of the process, but not in the sense of the academic study, which I think has taken on a naming convention of its own. (The academic study is also frequently capitalized as "Second Language Acquisition".) I'm not so familiar with all the debates around the Manual of Style, but is there a precedent for going against the sources in subjects like this? It doesn't seem right to me, but that might just be me. Regards — Mr. Stradivarius 11:35, 25 October 2011 (UTC)

Mr. Strad, I hope you don't mind my seeking linguistic opinions, including that of one of your colleagues at WikiProject Language, Kwami. You might have other suggestions for further opinions. Thanks. Tony (talk) 13:12, 25 October 2011 (UTC)
No, no, that's absolutely fine. The more people that comment on this, the better, I think. I did advertise this discussion on WikiProject Linguistics, so the editors there should see it too. I was considering other places, but came to the conclusion that doing so was probably overkill at this stage. — Mr. Stradivarius 13:54, 25 October 2011 (UTC)

Support hyphen[edit]

  • We have English-speakers as opposed to English speakers (English people who speak, or maybe speakers of the Westminster parliament); we have one's first language and one's second language; we have have first-language speakers and second-language speakers, as opposed to first language speakers (the hominids who first went beyond a protolanguage) and second language speakers, the latter pair also just plain hard to parse for non-experts, and even for experts. If this compound adjective has no hyphen, none should in the whole language. If this is another case where professionals drop the punctuation because they use the terms a lot and are very famliar with them, that's fine, but WP aims at a generalist readership, especially for these topics. Tony (talk) 14:36, 25 October 2011 (UTC)
  • This is the question of whether we follow the majority of sources in matters of formatting, or try for some consistency across our encyclopedia by following the MOS. The majority of publishers use the latter approach. True, as noted below, hyphens are not obligatory here. But it is unprofessional to hyphenate randomly, which is what we end up doing when we follow majority usage, which differs from one topic to the next. A hyphen isn't wrong here, and it follows our MOS. Nearly every publisher has an MOS they follow unless there's reason to make an exception, and I see no reason to make an exception in this case. — kwami (talk) 20:28, 25 October 2011 (UTC)
  • The core Wikipedia policy page for titles is WP:TITLE. It makes no explicit recommendations for punctuation. Nor do any of its examples distinguish candidate titles as superior or inferior because of their punctuation. This blanket of silence falls over such alternative usages as 1) a hyphen ("pack-horse weight ratio"), 2) a space ("pack horse weight ratio"), 3) a solid join ("packhorse weight ratio"), and 4) an en dash ("pack–horse weight ratio"). I concoct these examples for a reason. All are perfectly possible forms, but only the first two oscillate in meaning. We could disambiguate either of those two by a change to 3, or alternatively to 4. The matter is beyond most "reliable sources" – even those produced by academic linguists; but it has to be settled somehow, somewhere. For that reason, and for the clarity that comes from consistency, publishers use their own house styles and impose it no matter what erratic practices are used in the sources their works draw on. In the relevant respects, Wikipedia is a publisher. Like all the others, it has a house style – the Manual of Style, whose main page is WP:MOS. Standard, rational, and acceptable punctuation is essential to readability in articles, and punctuation is a major cause of disputes that cry out for pre-emptive resolution. For these reasons, WP:MOS has a great deal to say about punctuation, and it does the job remarkably well. It is simply not the case (despite what we may read in this discussion) that WP:MOS leaves the present case undetermined. Its guideline WP:HYPHEN definitely calls for "second-language acquisition", for reasons of the sort Tony mentions above. Tony says also that experts fall victim to over-familiarity. We see the same lapse in the daunting abuse of acronyms and the like – a habit that often cannot be shaken even when non-experts are addressed. Such abbreviations typically drain the phrases they abbreviate of all meaning, which is benign for experts (who understand each other pretty well, and spare each other the many syllables the common phrase might take to articulate, or the many letters it takes to write). But thoughtless use of abbreviation deals a blow to communications outside the elite. A similar semantic bleaching occurs, however, even when experts stick to unabbreviated phrases. They don't need to parse the components of the phrase at each occurrence; they know what "second[-]language acquisition" means, however it is punctuated. It is their fatal error to assume that everyone must grasp the sense, as readily as they do as experts. Any decline from the established ways of punctuation (especially "word punctuation", our theme here) risks an unintended and barely noticed increment in obscurity. For this reason, I respect both WP:MOS and the complementary provisions at WP:TITLE; they are not in conflict, no matter how the issue has been misunderstood in the past. I urge that we all consider the matter with care. I have gone on at length here because the question is of general importance, affecting hundreds of thousands of articles. WP:TITLE and WP:MOS serve the project well. Let's have equal respect for both of these hard-won standards that the community has set in place. Let's allow the punctuation guidelines to determine a question of punctuation. NoeticaTea? 10:23, 27 October 2011 (UTC)

Support no hyphen[edit]

  • The literature overwhelmingly uses "Second Language Acquisition", and per WP:TITLE, Wikipedia articles are to follow established naming conventions, not invent new ones, regardless of whatever prescriptive rule one editor may favor over another. This issue is a snowball. The recent spate of article moves was done without consensus and was incorrect. There obviously should not be a hyphen in the title of this or similar articles. —Bill Price (nyb) 14:14, 25 October 2011 (UTC)
    • Here's the specific quotation from WP:TITLE: "Wikipedia…prefers to use the name that is most frequently used to refer to the subject in English-language reliable sources." As has been overwhelmingly demonstrated, that name is Second Language Acquisition. —Bill Price (nyb) 13:49, 28 October 2011 (UTC)
Bill, I see you styled the phrase with capitals. ☺. Interesting choice; but it does not alter the wording, does it? And this gives the key to a crucial point that you have missed, I fear. The title should have these words in this order: {second language acquisition}. We all agree, and that's in accord with your quote from policy at WP:TITLE. Every publisher entering the field will use that same phrase to name the topic; but every publisher will style the phrase its own way. That includes spelling, capitalisation, possible italics, and any punctuation. (In fact, there is slippage in usage here. Sometimes capitalisation and the sort of word punctuation we discuss here are included as elements of spelling; sometimes not.) WP:TITLE concerns itself with the wording itself, but not much with the styling. This, unsurprisingly, is the province of Wikipedia's Manual of Style. Consider title case versus sentence case in reporting the names of books. The same name may be given these ways:

A portrait of the artist as a young man
[Typical bibliographic form in catalogues]

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
[Typical title-case citation form, used for the WP article]

A portrait of the artist as a young man
[A styling variant]

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
[Another styling variant]

Now, WP:TITLE has a little to say about capitals, but not as it affects these choices. It defers to guideline pages for style and naming conventions (bird names, and the like). WP:TITLE says this about italics: "Use italics when italics would be used in running text," and defers the matter with a link to the MOS page WP:ITALIC. Some technical mark-up issues are then covered, and nothing more. But WP:TITLE does concern itself with the exact choice of words, and would reject these commonly found versions:

Portrait of the artist as a young man

The portrait of the artist as a young man

As for hyphens, WP:TITLE does not so much as use the word. It mentions dashes only once, to forestall technical issues in searching. These are features that vary in the literature out there; Wikipedia should settle such styling matters by its Manual of Style. All publishers do the same.
NoeticaTea? 21:34, 28 October 2011 (UTC)
  • Not only does the literature overwhelmingly avoid the hyphen, there is no rule of English orthography that prescribes a hyphen in this phrase, or pace Tony, in "English speakers". There are very few contexts where hyphens are obligatory; anywhere they aren't, they should be removed like blackheads on the fair face of clear writing. Angr (talk) 18:00, 25 October 2011 (UTC)
Angr, see my answer to Bill, above. And see these points addressed in my long submission in the preceding section. NoeticaTea? 21:34, 28 October 2011 (UTC)
  • Neither form is wrong, but my feeling is that the term without a hyphen is more common in the literature. (Perhaps Bill Price or Angr have done a more systematic survey.) Furthermore, I don't read MOS:HYPHEN as clearly supporting hyphen use here. The section on compound modifiers mentions long noun phrases, ambiguous structures, or "a loss of clarity", but I don't see that at work here. Kwami, was that the section you had in mind when you said the hyphen in this case follows the MOS? (By the way, I agree with Angr and disagree with Tony about how to write English speakers, but don't see that as having much bearing here.) Cnilep (talk) 07:33, 26 October 2011 (UTC)
    • Right, I did my own quick-and-dirty survey (no hyphen hater, me) of academic literature in the Corpus of Contemporary American English. Without the hyphen, I find 156 tokens of "second language [NOUN]". With the hyphen, there are 70 tokens. There are no occurrences with "acquisition", but both "second language learning" and "second-language learning" appear (30 without hyphen vs. 11 hyphen-full). The tendency is clearly toward no hyphen, at least in contemporary American academic sources, though it is a tendency and not an absolute rule. Cnilep (talk) 07:46, 26 October 2011 (UTC)
That's just fine: a significant number have the hyphen, and the hyphen is in accordance with WP:HYPHEN. Remember also that there are many English-speakers who are not American, where hyphens are probably used more often; but even an American professional editor would add the hyphen. Tony (talk) 07:26, 27 October 2011 (UTC)
For what it's worth, the written portion of the British National Corpus has 28 tokens of "second language acquisition" and zero tokens of "second-language acquisition". I found one hyphen-full occurrence of second-language in BNC-written ("second-language users") versus 200 hyphen-less, but many (most?) of the latter are not followed by a noun. There are, of course, English varieties besides American and British, but the evidence so far does not suggest that this is a regional peculiarity. Cnilep (talk) 10:58, 27 October 2011 (UTC)
Cnilep, the exact phrase of interest to us here certainly exhibits semantic bleaching when used by specialists (see my submission in the preceding section), as the BNC evidence confirms. It is interesting to compare occurrences of other less common instances of the same structure. Unfortunately at BNC this has to be done by trying specific words: as far as I know, you cannot do searches like [a*]-[n*] [n*] there, because it treats hyphenated forms as whole words. NoeticaTea? 21:34, 28 October 2011 (UTC)


Seeing as this looks like it will turn into a major debate, how about we just convert this section into a requested move discussion right now? Would anyone be against doing that? — Mr. Stradivarius 12:57, 27 October 2011 (UTC)

I think I'm starting to figure out where arguments in favor of the hyphen are coming from. The idea seems to be that, since hyphens are sometimes useful in disambiguating phrases they should be used consistently, regardless of the actual ambiguity in a particular case. Please correct me I misunderstand.
If that is the issue, perhaps the wording at MOS:HYPHEN needs to be strengthened. I read the current wording ("hyphens can help...", "certain prefixes..." (emphasis added), "normally used...") as a weak standard that can defer to, for example, common usage within the literature. I can understand arguing in favor of greater consistency, but I wonder if such an argument should be made at WT:MOS in addition to (or instead of) discussion of this particular case.
That said, I certainly have no objection to formally discussing a move in this case, though I would probably abstain from such discussion given my current understanding of usage in this case and its relationship to the current MOS. Cnilep (talk) 03:29, 28 October 2011 (UTC)
Yes, you might be right there. Actually, since I wrote that, my position has softened a bit, not least because of finding this, which specifies the hyphen specifically for this term. Thinking about it, I have come to the conclusion that we may be able to solve this in a different way. My main reason for having no hyphen, as I said above, was that the term "second[-]language acquisition" refers to both a learning process and a field of study. I thought, and still think, that including the hyphen when discussing the field feels strange (probably because of the frequency differences which you pointed out). But there is a good reason to distinguish the two senses somehow; namely that it is often done in the literature. One common way that I've seen is the use of "L2 acquisition" for the process and of "Second Language Acquisition" or "SLA" for the study. I think we should choose a similar "house style" for this article as well: if the MOS dictates "second-language acquisition" for the process, how about using something like "SLA research" or "SLA studies" for the field of study? Of course, we would clarify everything at the beginning of the article (and I think this is already done to an extent). — Mr. Stradivarius 07:32, 28 October 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Addressing some comments above: The guideline for dashes at WP:MOS has undergone an extensive review under ArbCom supervision, earlier in 2011. It was remarkable to see how much solid community support the existing WP:DASH had; but the process enabled extremely useful clarifications and refinements, and one or two very specific changes in direction. It was noted during the review that the related guideline WP:HYPHEN should be next, and the MOS regulars look forward to working on that. Meanwhile, WP:HYPHEN is robust and reasonably clear (though it could be made more definite on some points, and use simpler wording). On the issue affecting this page, it accords exactly with CMOS16 (the current Chicago Manual of Style), and also with the current New Hart's Rules, the British equivalent (which nevertheless acknowledges, more than CMOS ever does, that practice may vary). The WP Manual of Style (MOS) follows "reliable sources" for style! In this case, the two flagship guides an either side of the Atlantic. But style sources vary in their details, and because its collaborative online environment is unique, WP must make choices. It does so by the usual slow and deliberate community consultation process. Better now, in fact, than ever before. Editors generally put aside pet aversions (we all have them!), and respect MOS. It serves the Project well.

NoeticaTea? 21:57, 28 October 2011 (UTC)

I don't disagree one bit with Noetica's comment above, but my point is different: a logical sequence. (1) The same set of RfCs supervised by ArbCom showed very robust support for the notion that article titles and article text should be consistent—in other words, people don't like the chaotic situation we had up to about four years ago, when dashes weren't allowed in article titles, and "iMac" had to be "IMac" in title-initial position, but were used in the article text. (2) WP:TITLE is silent on typography/punctuation, and does make reference to the MoS. (3) The MoS has always been the guideline for typography and punctuation. By the way, in my gnoming I regret to say that I come across more examples than I expected of inconsistent article titles and opening bolded topic in the lead. Tony (talk) 02:49, 29 October 2011 (UTC)
Noetica, Tony, thanks for the comments. I agree that consistent titles are desirable in Wikipedia and that we should respect the ArbCom ruling on the matter. Also, I'm curious as to what you both think of the different senses of second[-]language acquisition as I mentioned above. Could you comment on my suggested compromise of using "second-language acquisition" for the process and "SLA research" for the field of study? Thanks again — Mr. Stradivarius 03:08, 29 October 2011 (UTC)
Strad, consistency and tipping one's hat at the need for non-experts, who aren't used to many of the compound items used by experts, to parse it. Solid state physics, for example, is often used by physicists without the hyphen, but we mortals don't want to stop for a few more milliseconds and parse it: solid-state physics is definitely easier, and is definitely used by some physicists, even in everyday correspondence. (I would, if I were a physicist.) But no one's gonna complain about the people who named German Studies Association without the hyphen: if I'd been a founding member, I'd have objected to a hyphen as unnecessary and intrusive. I concede that there are sometimes grey areas, of course: that's what the MoS says, in more formal terms; and it's interesting that hyphenation is such an unstable area of English (Halliday explains in grammatical terms this and the jamming or non-jamming together of elements, week-end come to mind; even 50 years ago, some people hyphenated them). I think SLA research is much much nicer than the expanded version, but the first occurrence needs to be expanded, and thus the hyphen issue has to be dealt with anyway. Incidentally, you don't really cap it just because it's abbreviated in caps, do you? Eye-poking and contra WP's house style, I think. Tony (talk) 03:50, 29 October 2011 (UTC)
Yes, sorry, that's what I meant - using "second-language acquisition research" the first time and then abbreviating to "SLA research" for subsequent mentions. (Or - serious question - should that first mention be "second-language-acquisition research"?) Even I think it would be strange to write "second-language acquisition", but on the first mention of the field of study to write "second language acquisition research". I actually think we're on the same page now, so you can put me down as being a weak supporter of the hyphen. Funny how your perception of things can change after a few days. — Mr. Stradivarius 04:53, 29 October 2011 (UTC)
A style used since the 1930s, I think, in the US, is to avoid those ugly triple-bungers. Scientific American uses it, although not in every article: second language–acquisition research. I've never thought it was intuitive, and takes a little geeting used to. Kwami's keen on it; I can cope with it. In the normal course of prose, I'd try to reword as research into/on second-language acquisition (SFA), just as the MoS says to do with five-kilometre-long roadway (a roadway five kilometres long). What do you think? Tony (talk) 05:06, 29 October 2011 (UTC)
Yes, rewording is definitely the best solution here. I'd go for "research in second-language acquisition" - that looks a lot neater. — Mr. Stradivarius 05:25, 29 October 2011 (UTC)

Hyphen in the title: second discussion[edit]

I was not aware of the discussion that happened (above) in October 2011, or I would have commented. But hyphenating "second-language acquisition" is simply not correct. This is not an issue of when to use hyphens and when not; this is an issue of spelling the name as it is spelled or as it isn't spelled. As some commenters above pointed out, the term is almost always written without a hyphen. This is the case for names of academic programs or courses (a few random examples: U of Maryland, UCLA, Stanford), academic conferences (BUCLD, GALA, GASLA), textbooks ([1], [2], [3], [4], [5]), academic journals ([6]). The only example I've found so far that uses a hyphen is OSU's intro linguistics textbook ([7]), which I don't have a copy of right now but I see "first-language acquisition" in their table of contents.

Regardless of what some editors feel about how hyphens "should" be used, the fact of the matter is they are almost never used for this name. Per WP:COMMONNAME, the title of this article should reflect the name that is actually used. I also don't see evidence in the above section that a consensus was ever reached or that any outside editor came in to judge the consensus; it just looks to me like the article was moved by one of the participants in the discussion. rʨanaɢ (talk) 23:32, 12 August 2012 (UTC)

I've reverted Rjanag's page move, so the page is back at "second-language acquisition" for the time-being. I actually don't have very strong feelings about the hyphen, but I think we should find a proper consensus before any move. That is because "second language acquisition" got changed to "second-language acquisition" on quite a few pages after the last discussion, and I don't want to have to change them all back before we have a consensus on what to do. I think that it would be best to start a requested move on this - Rjanag, do you think that this would be a good idea, and as the party that wants the page to be moved, would you be willing to file it? Best — Mr. Stradivarius (have a chat) 18:26, 13 August 2012 (UTC)
I'll post a note at WT:MOS. — kwami (talk) 19:53, 13 August 2012 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Thanks to Kwami for the note at WT:MOS (corrected above from "WP:MOS"). The issue raised is important; but in fact it is a general one, and cannot properly be confined to this talkpage. The styling of "second-language acquisition" is just that: a matter of styling, not one of spelling, or form of name "out there" in the usage of other publishers. Wikipedia has its own comprehensive Manual of Style to settle issues like this problematic hyphen. MOS (unlike any other major guide to style, or manual of style) is developed through community consultation, and careful discussion of best practice in currently published work.
I have given my opinions and arguments at great length above, and I urge all participants here to pay close attention to the reasoning in my first post especially (27 October 2011).
Settling the relation between styling and titling policy for Wikipedia is not the business of this talkpage, or any other article's talkpage. It belongs in a far more general forum. I propose WT:MOS. I strongly suggest that no more time be wasted here, by reiteration along old familiar lines; the same dispute will simply occur again and again at countless talkpages, unless we conduct it in general terms for all affected articles.

NoeticaTea? 00:59, 14 August 2012 (UTC)

I don't believe this is a manual of style issue. It's an issue of calling the field what it's called. For this reason, I think this page, not WP:MOS, is the appropriate forum for this discussion; no offense, but I don't think the opinions of Wikipedia editors who know MOS but have no familiarity with this field are relevant here. The fact that it appears without a hyphen in other locations is does not reflect that "other publishers" somehow overwhelmingly have a different opinion about hyphens than Wikipedia does; rather, it simply reflects the WP:COMMONNAME of this field. rʨanaɢ (talk) 02:31, 14 August 2012 (UTC)
Rjanag, the "let's do what they do out there" principle is fatally flawed, since in so many instances what they do out there is inconsistent. And it's usually not just a case of looking at this nefarious quantum called majority usage. The majority often don't even follow their own style guides, let alone take heed of what the Chicago Manual of Style or the Oxford Hart's New Rules say. And sometimes, variant usage simply defies the goal of maximising readability, a case in hand here. Please remember that WP articles are not elitist, are not written for experts who see their pet terms every day. We write for a more generalist readership, which requires the application of standard typography to smooth the way for the uninitiated. I'm afraid the fact that the University of Whoop-Whoop drops the hyphen is unimportant in the larger scheme of things. Tony (talk) 02:59, 14 August 2012 (UTC)
Rjanag is right. SLA is almost always spelled out without a hyphen by those writing books about it. In many cases only peripherally relevant to this one, people are indeed inconsistent; in virtually all instances of spelling out SLA, they consistently do so without a hyphen. This isn't a matter of typography; it's one of orthography. There's nothing at all elitist (or indeed populist) about either not hyphenating or hyphenating. It's not the University of Whoop-Whoop (or Woolloomoolloo); it's instead Oxford and Cambridge university presses, Routledge, Erlbaum, Benjamins, and more. Only a tiny, freakish minority of those uninitiated in the study of SLA are likely to experience more than a microblip of surprise at a blank rather than a hyphen appearing between "Second" and "language". (It's not as if "second language acquisition" suggests the possibility of the second acquisition of a given language.) ¶ That said, you might just as well stick a hyphen in it: those (like me) accustomed to writing it without one are unlikely to express more than a microblip of surprise at its presence. ¶ Jeez, you "style" people, do you actually take this stuff seriously? I enjoy the occasional dispute as much as the next person (and can cite AfDs and so on to prove it), but Wikipedia has hugely more amusing disputes, some of which even dangle the prospect of recognition and fame for their participants; example: "Paul Ryan, 'Brown Noser'? The Wikipedia Edit Wars Begin for Romney's Running Mate". -- Hoary (talk) 14:02, 14 August 2012 (UTC)
Hoary! Good to see you round the traps. Yeah, it's an odd case all right; but the real issue it raises is general and important. That's why I say we should talk it through at WT:MOS. The relevant guideline is WP:HYPHEN, part of WP:MOS. That section needs adjustment similar to what WP:DASH went through last year, with excellent consensual results and a big reduction in RM wrangling. See also my response to Rjanag, below.
NoeticaTea? 02:58, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
If "the 'let's do what they do out there' principle is fatally flawed", then why does Wikipedia have a policy, WP:COMMONNAME, which says exactly that? "The term most typically used in reliable sources is preferred to technically correct but rarer forms." rʨanaɢ (talk) 15:18, 14 August 2012 (UTC)
Rjanag, I agree with Tony: it is fatally flawed, if we fail to distinguish choice of a title and choice of styling for a title. Most Wikipedians (along with many writers, and many academic linguists, and so on) are not style experts, and they have no connection with the business of publishing "out there". But whether they grasp this or not, the distinction I mention is made by editors everywhere "out there". It's the very reason for having house styles, manuals of style, style sheets, and punctuation manuals, to say nothing of dictionaries and such basic standard-setting reference tools. Note the plural in each case: plurality is automatically suggested the moment we mention "style". If there were no plurality in practice, no question of "style" could ever arise.
Now, MOS aims to be a harmonious and consensual adaptation of the best style recommendations, drawn from all those sources sources. The central page WP:MOS achieves that remarkably well – considering the environment it is developed in. Some other MOS pages are not yet at the same standard, but they are improving too. As for WP:COMMONNAME, it is part of WP:TITLE, and that policy page has precious little to do with style. Nor should it. MOS and TITLE work harmoniously together for Wikipedia; COMMONNAME tells us to prefer "Guinea pig" to "Cavia porcellus", "Gulzar" to "Sampooran Singh Kalra", "Heroin" to "Diacetylmorphine", and so on. These are not issues of style, in the relevant sense. As every other publisher does ("out there"), Wikipedia applies its own system of well-considered styling, once it has made the prior choice of wording. Why should it be otherwise? Wikipedia now has a major, comprehensive manual of style of its own. Why should it not have one – and apply it, and improve it as the need arises?
See also my response to Hoary, above. If there are difficulties with general style issues, pretty clearly they belong at the talkpage at the core of our style resources: WT:MOS.
NoeticaTea? 02:58, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
Thank you for your response, I understand where you are coming from now. Unfortunately I think we just have a difference of opinion regarding what kind of issue this is. You consider it a style issue, I consider it a naming issue; I doubt we'll be able to resolve this difference with further discussion. Personally I don't think the purview of MOS extends to common terms which already have a more or less accepted form (my understanding of WP:HYPHEN is that it covers how to use hyphens in one's own writing, not how to use hyphens in terms where the field that uses that term has already pretty much settled on a usage); but obviously not everyone holds that same opinion. rʨanaɢ (talk) 04:41, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
  • I can't be neutral about this (my father's name is all over this article), but I can say that I have never seen this subject written with a hyphen. It's just not done. This discussion seems to be about applying a rule of WP:MOS to a real-world name, and looks to me to be about as logical as renaming Major League Baseball to "Major-League Baseball." But that's just my opinion, and of course I'm biased by 40 years of exposure to this way of doing things.--Mike Selinker (talk) 03:31, 16 August 2012 (UTC)
The complication here is that hyphens tend to be omitted when understood from context. Obviously, in the lit on SLA there's no need to hyphenate. Our audience, however, is different: they are the general public, who may have no exposure to the subject. You see this is medical terminology. A small round cell tumour sounds to the naive reader as if it's a tumour that's small and round, when actually it's a tumour of small round cells and may be quite large and not at all round; an introductory medical textbook might therefore hyphenate small-round-cell tumour, whereas in oncological journals the term will be unhyphenated. Misapplying COMMONNAME to hyphenation would require that we not hyphenate in this case, despite the likely bafflement of our readers. Now, that's jargon, and the current case is not nearly so obscure; the question for us is whether if it's obvious enough to s.o. who knows nothing of the subject that we don't need to hyphenate, and whether we wish to hyphenate just to be safe, so that when we don't hyphenate the reader will understand that's because a hyphen would be semantically incorrect. (BTW, the convention is not to hyphenate capitalized names, as the capitalization makes them relatively unambiguous.) — kwami (talk) 21:51, 19 August 2012 (UTC)
Agree. WP writes for non-experts where possible. Tony (talk) 02:50, 20 August 2012 (UTC)
I'm all for that. I'm just opposed to Wikipedia being wrong, which this is. For that matter, so is small-blue-round-cell tumor.--Mike Selinker (talk) 15:15, 20 August 2012 (UTC)
Actually, WP:AT#Deciding_on_an_article_title says "Recognizability – Titles are names or descriptions of the topic that are recognizable to someone familiar with (though not necessarily expert in) the topic". No one familiar with the topic is going to be confused with the lack of a hyphen. --Enric Naval (talk) 13:58, 30 August 2012 (UTC)
Barely any source outside wikipedia uses a hyphen for this topic, and there is no ambiguity for anyone remotely familiar with the topic. Thus, I have restored the title to the hyphen-less title that it was created with. --Enric Naval (talk) 16:23, 31 August 2012 (UTC)
Some editors will argue that a hyphenated version is "more correct" or "less ambiguous", but barely any reliable source seems to think that this is the case. A hyphen can indeed help to make some constructions less ambiguous, but this particular construction doesn't seem to need it. --Enric Naval (talk) 16:30, 31 August 2012 (UTC)
Sorry to tread on your toes, but I've moved the page back to the hyphenated version. This is the last time I'll move it - I don't want to get into a move war - but I would really like there to be a consensus for moving before we move the page from one title to the other. As I said at the top of this thread, there is rather a lot of cleaning-up to do if we move it. It's not just this article, but the daughter articles, the tangentially-related articles, the templates, and the category too. I would really like to avoid cleaning those up if I don't have to. Could you start a proper requested move discussion? That is definitely the best way to do things now, in my opinion. Best regards — Mr. Stradivarius (have a chat) 18:50, 31 August 2012 (UTC)
Well, I guess it can attract some outside opinions. --Enric Naval (talk) 15:03, 1 September 2012 (UTC)

I've only just discovered this discussion but I have a few observations: First, I honestly don't understand the justification for hyphenating "second-language". The standard for terminology within the language acquisition field is and has been for around 50 years, "First Language Acquisition" and "Second Language Acquisition" with three separate words for each, thus the abbreviations FLA and SLA. If these were termed "first-language" and "second language" acquisition, those abbreviations would only be "FA" and "SA" which they are not. Second, any choice of forms on Wikipedia for "second language acquisition" should be equitably applied to "first language acquisition" so as to maintain consistency. Third, the field is "language acquisition", with the first and second referring to different processes of language acquisition, not to different 'first languages' and 'second languages' being acquired. Attempting to hyphenate in the manner proposed would create ambiguity and at the same time could not possibly be balanced by any reasonable linguistic or academic merit. Finally, why should Wikipedia use a hyphenated version of a give terminology that is standardized without one?Drew.ward (talk) 17:39, 20 September 2012 (UTC)

I agree with Kwami. In WP it should be Second-language acquisition. It's not a copyrighted name, like Major League Baseball. WP can write the phrase any way it wants; WP is an encyclopedia for generalists, so it should write and punctuate for non-specialists. Thanks for listening. GeorgeLouis (talk) 03:21, 10 December 2012 (UTC)

Requested move[edit]

The following discussion is an archived discussion of the proposal. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the proposal was not moved. --BDD (talk) 22:39, 13 September 2012 (UTC) (non-admin closure)

Second-language acquisitionSecond language acquisition

From WP:AT#Deciding_on_an_article_title: titles should be "recognizable to someone familiar with (though not necessarily expert in) the topic". No one remotely familiar with the topic is going to be confused by not using a hyphen.

For the closing admin, please consider also the arguments in:

--Enric Naval (talk) 15:03, 1 September 2012 (UTC)

  • Comment. Is the choice of adquisition a typo? Vegaswikian (talk) 18:42, 1 September 2012 (UTC)
  • (edit conflict) Oppose. I think you misspelled acquisition in your suggested move target, Enric Naval. In any event, MOS:HYPHEN, point 3, supports (on my reading, at least) the use of a hyphen; and since the unhyphenated Second language acquisition redirects to the article anyway, I can't see that anyone "familiar with (though not necessarily expert in) the topic" will land anywhere other than this article when searching for it. Deor (talk) 18:51, 1 September 2012 (UTC)
  • Comment. I've changed the proposed title to "acquisition", which I assume is what's meant. No position on whether the hyphenated version or the non-hyphenated version should be used, as per the discussion above. — Mr. Stradivarius (have a chat) 21:05, 1 September 2012 (UTC)
  • Sorry, I made a typo because it's spelled with "d" in Spanish ("adquisición"). --Enric Naval (talk) 21:54, 1 September 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose—as before. Tony (talk) 00:07, 2 September 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose. I am breaking my usual absence from these RM discussions, because I am already committed to this one (see above). In response to Enric Naval's points in the proposal: WP:TITLE is silent on punctuation, both at the word level (as here, pretty well) and the sentence level. Its purpose is to determine the title, not the styling of the title. Styling is the province of WP:MOS and its subsidiary pages, and that must apply to the title as much as to any other component of an article. How could it be otherwise? Should MOS determine choices in the text of an article, but allow the title to differ from the styling of the text? Hardly! Everyone agrees that style within an article must be consistent. (Enric stresses that very point himself, in other forums.) MOS is carefully adapted from consensual discussions of best practice in current publishing, bearing in mind the needs of a unique online writing and editing community. It is ridiculous to appeal directly to the style choices made elsewhere, according to other manuals of style. Publishers are extremely variable in their style practices, but each is consistent within its own productions. Ideally, at least. Wikipedia is just like that. It too has a manual of style, to suit its own unusual needs. Finally, the business of recognisability raised in the proposal is not relevant. Of course, any worker in the field would recognise "second-language acquisition" – hyphenated or not. But WP:TITLE makes our priorities clear:

"The choice of article titles should put the interests of readers before those of editors, and those of a general audience before those of specialists."

So let's do just that, as policy requires. Specialists in content are not specialists in style; nor are they automatically experts in communicating the content that they are so near to, every day of their working lives. That very familiarity distances them from the situation of the naive reader. They cannot, typically, predict what newcomers will find puzzling. But Wikipedia's concern is exactly to serve such readers; and the well-articulated, consensual, industry-standard punctuation choices at WP:MOS are made entirely for that purpose.
NoeticaTea? 08:20, 2 September 2012 (UTC)
The above discussion is preserved as an archive of the proposal. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

Affective approaches[edit]

I see that LanguageCoach has re-added a section on "affective approaches". However, I think this is redundant with the existing section "affective factors". I don't think we need two different sections to talk about the effect that affect has on language acquisition (see what I did there?). Would anyone object to me merging these two sections together? — Mr. Stradivarius ♪ talk ♪ 09:46, 17 May 2013 (UTC)

The whole section "Individual variation" seems to have (much) the same topic as the "Internal factors" subsection (though I did not look at their content), so I think their contents should be merged. --JorisvS (talk) 13:19, 17 May 2013 (UTC)
I think you're right that those sections could do with a general restructuring. I originally split the article up into "external factors", "internal factors", and "individual variation", because this is the way it was done in Rod Ellis's The Study of Second Language Acquisition (if I recall correctly). However, other books divide the material up in different ways, and there is not even any real need for us to slavishly follow other sources when deciding how to structure the article. I'll have a think about how best to do this and post back here again when have something to share. — Mr. Stradivarius ♪ talk ♪ 15:28, 17 May 2013 (UTC)

Yep, I did think about that problem. My preference is that the second mention be merged into the first. The reason for that is that is because of the way the first three ( Cognitive, linguistic, etc) have been written. I actually believe there are some issues here as factors seem to segue into approaches. To me they are quite different. However for now, I do not want to rewrite, so I will leave them. maybe at a later stage if I get motivated. LanguageCoach (talk) 22:16, 17 May 2013 (UTC)

Ok, I've had a go at restructuring the article. It could probably still do with some tweaks (maybe the language transfer section should be moved inside the linguistic factors section?), but it is basically there. See what you think, and feel free to make any changes that you think would improve the article. Best — Mr. Stradivarius on tour ♪ talk ♪ 03:41, 22 May 2013 (UTC)


I would suggest working on the lead section of this article in order to give a more comprehensive overview of the topic and the sections within the article. Currently the key points are not included. Working on this section may help to improve the cohesiveness of the article as a whole. In order for the article to be a bit more balanced I would suggest discussing more the notion of a critical period, as this is a common view or bias that many people with little or no knowledge of the subject may bring when reading the article, as well as the idea of perceptual narrowing which adds challenges to second language acquisition by the inability to distinguish a contrast between phonemes which do not occur in your native language. This article is off to a good start! It has a good outline and has lots of reliable sources. --Lizhugs (talk) 04:46, 18 September 2014 (UTC)

Further suggestions[edit]

The term ‘outline’ for the first section seems inappropriate and redundant because there is a table of contents above and because of the content of the section. I suggest moving the bottom two paragraphs into the introduction to give a fuller account of what SLA includes, and I would suggest renaming the section ‘history’ because the history of the field is discussed in the first half of the section. This would make for a clearer lead into the whole article. The opening paragraph of “stages” should be clarified. It should describe when a learner is likely to experience a silent period – such as children who move to a new location. The part about speaking in a course is also ambiguous in regards to situations like children in immersion preschool or kindergarten who may or may not interact in the second language right away. Related to this point, I would suggest describing a full account of SLA in childhood versus post critical period. Finally, the section on comparisons with FLA does not actually discuss how the process of learning a second language (as a child, and as an adult) differs from that of the first language. Rather it discusses the effects of having a first language bias or of learning a second language. These points and examples may be more appropriate under the section ‘language transfer.’ [[User:|Sweeeetheart]] (talk) 04:19, 19 September 2014 (UTC)

@Sweeeetheart: These sound like good suggestions. Why not go ahead and fix the article? — Mr. Stradivarius ♪ talk ♪ 04:44, 19 September 2014 (UTC)

Introduction Citations[edit]

There are no cited references in the first section, is this something that should be remedied? CRHeck (talk) 15:50, 2 October 2015 (UTC)

No - the lead section is supposed to be a summary of the rest of the article, so the claims should all be backed up by sources located further down the page. WP:LEAD has the details if you're interested. :) — Mr. Stradivarius ♪ talk ♪ 01:06, 3 October 2015 (UTC)
@Mr. Stradivarius: Ah okay that makes sense, thank you. :) CRHeck (talk) 16:40, 3 October 2015 (UTC)


I would like to expand upon the existing information in the Age section of this page.

Some specific information I would like to add is:

  • Slightly more information on the Critical Period Hypothesis
  • General differences between adult/older child learners and young children
  • More detailed information on the differences between initial progress between older and younger learners
  • Differences in first and second language proficiency- i.e. Can a second language be stronger than a first?
  • The possible influences of Universal Grammar (UG) on age differences
  • Nonbiological explanations for age differences.
  • Delay or acceleration in language development (children)
  • Language attrition related to age (or a new section focused on second-language attrition, if that is better)-- Would this be an appropriate section to add for SLA, since it is more about losing, rather than acquiring, a language? I would appreciate input for this.
  • Kohnert, Kathryn (2008). "Primary language impairments in bilingual children and adults." In Altarriba, J.; Heredia, R. R.. An Introduction to Bilingualism: Principles and Processes. New York: Taylor & Francis Group. pp. 295-313. ISBN: 13:978-0-8058-5135-9
  • Gass, Susan. & Glew, Margo. (2008). Second language acquisition and bilingualism. In Altarriba, J. & Heredia, R. R., An Introduction to Bilingualism: Principles and Processes. New York: Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. pp.265-294. ISBN: 13:978-0-8058-5135-9
  • Long, Michael. H. (2007). Problems in SLA. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. pp.43-74. ISBN:0-8058-3580-6
  • Pinter, Annamaria. (2011). Children learning second languages.Research and practice in applied linguistics. Basingstoke, UK: Palsgrave Macmillan: Centre for Applied Linguistics, University of Warwick, UK. ISBN: 978-1-4039-1185-8
  • Schrauf, Robert, W. (2008). Bilingualism and aging. In Altarriba, J. & Heredia, R. R., An Introduction to Bilingualism: Principles and Processes. New York: Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. pp. 105-127. ISBN: 13:978-0-8058-5135-9
  • Nicoladis, Elena. (2008). Bilingualism and language cognitive development. In Altarriba, J. & Heredia, R. R., An Introduction to Bilingualism: Principles and Processes. New York: Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. pp. 167-181. ISBN: 13:978-0-8058-5135-9
  • Seliger, H. (1989). Deterioration and creativity in childhood bilingualism. In Hyltenstam, Kenneth & Obler, Loraine, K., Bilingualism Across the Lifespan: Aspects of Acquisition, Maturity, and Loss. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. pp. 173-184. ISBN0-521-35225-8.
  • Sharwood Smith, Michael, A. Crosslinguistic influence in language loss. In Hyltenstam, Kenneth & Obler, Loraine, K., Bilingualism Across the Lifespan: Aspects of Acquisition, Maturity, and Loss. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. pp. 185-201. ISBN0-521-35225-8.

I would also like to add to the Sociocultural Factors section of this page.

Specific information I am interested in adding includes:

  • The role of immersion (cultural and school) in acquisition
  • The impact of learning two languages in different contexts
  • The influence of cultural change or language assimilation in language attrition
  • The influence of attitude, motivation, and personality on acquisition (would these be best categorized as sociocultural factors?)-- or perhaps I could expand upon the Affective Factors section?
  • Acculturation
  • Bialystok, Ellen & Hakuta, Kenji. (1994). In other words: The science and psychology of second-language acquisition. New York, NY: BasicBooks. pp. 124-159. ISBN:0-456-07565-7
  • Pinter, Annamaria. (2011). Children learning second languages.Research and practice in applied linguistics. Basingstoke, UK: Palsgrave Macmillan: Centre for Applied Linguistics, University of Warwick, UK. ISBN: 978-1-4039-1185-8
  • Tokowicz, Natasha. (2015). Lexical processing and second language acquisition. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis. pp. 57-74. ISBN: 978-0-415-87755-8
  • Vega, Luis, A. (2008). Social psychological approaches to bilingualism. In Altarriba, J. & Heredia, R. R., An Introduction to Bilingualism: Principles and Processes. New York: Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. pp.185-198. ISBN: 13:978-0-8058-5135-9

Thank you! Beccabouma (talk) 04:26, 19 October 2015 (UTC)

@Beccabouma: Yes, this sounds great! Please feel free to add all of that. :) If it gets too long then we might need to move some out to other articles - maybe Individual variation in second-language acquisition, maybe Critical period hypothesis, or maybe a new article like Age effects on second-language acquisition - but we definitely need more on age in this article, and however much you write it will find a home somewhere.

The same goes for information on sociocultural factors - the more, the better, and if we have too much we can work out how to deal with it later. Also, don't be afraid to switch sections around if you think it would make the article better organised. I based the current structure on Rod Ellis's 2008 book, but other textbooks do things in other ways, and what works for a textbook doesn't necessarily work for an encyclopaedia article. Be bold. :)

And yes, please do start a section on second-language attrition! Everything in SLA research is in this article's scope, so the fact that second-language attrition hasn't made it in yet is just an omission. You should have a look at the Second-language attrition article first, though. Seeing as we already have an article on the subject, the goal should be to summarize that article using summary style. However, at a glance it looks like it relies too much on primary sources (and thereby fails the "no original research" policy), so perhaps it will be easier to write a new summary here from scratch, and then expand the main article later. — Mr. Stradivarius ♪ talk ♪ 06:29, 19 October 2015 (UTC)

Thanks for the advice! Beccabouma (talk) 14:24, 19 October 2015 (UTC)

This is the majority of the expansion/editions for age that I was hoping to include:


The issue of age was first addressed with the critical period hypothesis.[note 4] The strict version of this hypothesis states that there is a cut-off age at about 12, after which learners lose the ability to fully learn a language. However, the exact age marking the end of the critical period is debated, and ranges from age 6 to 13, with many arguing that it is around the onset of puberty [1]. This strict version has since been rejected for second-language acquisition, as some adult learners have been observed who reach native-like levels of pronunciation and general fluency. However, in general, adult learners of a second-language rarely achieve the native-like fluency that children display, despite often progressing faster in the initial stages. This has led to speculation that age is indirectly related to other, more central factors that affect language learning.

Children that acquire two languages from birth are called simultaneous bilinguals. In these cases, both languages are spoken to the children by their parents or caregivers and they grow up knowing the two languages. These children generally reach linguistic milestones at the same time as their monolingual peers [2]. Children who do not learn two languages from infancy, but learn one language from birth, and another at some point during childhood, are referred to as sequential bilinguals. It is often assumed that a sequential bilingual's first language will be his or her most proficient language. However, this is not always the case. Over time and experience, a child's second language may become his or her strongest. This is especially likely to happen if a child's first language is a minority language spoken at home, and the child's second language is the majority language learned at school or in the community before the age of five. Proficiency for both simultaneous and sequential bilinguals is dependent upon the child's opportunities to engage in meaningful conversations in a variety of contexts.

Often simultaneous bilinguals are more proficient in their languages than sequential bilinguals. One argument for this is that simultaneous bilinguals develop more distinct representations of their languages, especially with regards to phonological and semantic levels of processing [1]. This would cause learners to have more differentiation between the languages, leading them to be able to recognize the subtle differences between the languages that less proficient learners would struggle to recognize. Learning a language earlier in life would help develop these distinct representations of language, as the learner's first language would be less established. Conversely, learning a language later in life would lead to more similar semantic representations [1].

Although child learners more often acquire native-like proficiency, older child and adult learners often progress faster in the initial stages of learning. [3]. Older child and adult learners are quicker at acquiring the initial grammar knowledge than child learners, however, with enough time and exposure to the language, children surpass their older peers. Once surpassed, older learners often display clear language deficiencies compared to child learners. The exact language deficiencies that occur past a certain age are not unanimously agreed upon. Some believe that only pronunciation is affected, while others believe other abilities are affected as well. However, some differences that are generally agreed upon include older learners having a noticeable accent, a smaller vocabulary, and making several linguistic errors.

One explanation for this difference in proficiency between older learners and younger learners involves Universal Grammar. Universal Grammar is a debated theory that suggests that people have innate knowledge of universal linguistic principles that are present from birth [4]. These principles guide children as they learn a language, but its parameters vary from language to language [5]. The theory assumes that, while Universal Grammar remains into adulthood, the ability to reset the parameters set for each language is lost, making it more difficult to learn a new language proficiently [4] . Since adults have an already established native language, the language acquisition process is much different for them, than young learners. The rules and principles that guide the use of the learners' native language plays a role in the way the second language is developed [5]. Some nonbiological explanations for second-language acquisition age differences include variations in social and psychological factors, such as motivation; the learner's linguistic environment; and the level of exposure. Even with less advantageous nonbiological influences, many child learners will attain a greater level of proficiency than adult learners with more advantageous nonbiological influences [3]. ' Jump up ^ Loewen, S., and Reinders, H. (2001). ISBN: 978-0-230-23018-7 Jump up ^ Kohnert, K. (2008). Primary Language Impairments in Bilingual Children and Adults. ^ Jump up to: a b Long, M. H. (2007). Problems in SLA. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. ^ Jump up to: a b Long, M. H. (2007). Problems in SLA. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. ^ Jump up to: a b Gass, S. & Glew, M. (2008). Second language acquisition and bilingualism. In Altarriba, J. & Heredia, R. R., An Introduction to Bilingualism: Principles and Processes. New York: Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. ISBN: 13:978-0-8058-5135-9

Thanks! Beccabouma (talk) 15:26, 27 October 2015 (UTC)

What I have added into the Sociocultural factors is bolded. If there are any suggestions as to changes I should make within it, or problems with what I have added, please let me know before I add it to the page. Thank you!

Sociocultural factors

From the early days of the discipline researchers have also acknowledged that social aspects play an important role.[54] There have been many different approaches to sociolinguistic study of second-language acquisition, and indeed, according to Rod Ellis, this plurality has meant that "sociolinguistic SLA is replete with a bewildering set of terms referring to the social aspects of L2 acquisition".[55] Common to each of these approaches, however, is a rejection of language as a purely psychological phenomenon; instead, sociolinguistic research views the social context in which language is learned as essential for a proper understanding of the acquisition process.[56]

Ellis identifies three types of social structure which can affect the acquisition of second languages: sociolinguistic setting, specific social factors, and situational factors.[57] Socialinguistic setting refers to the role of the second language in society, such as whether it is spoken by a majority or a minority of the population, whether its use is widespread or restricted to a few functional roles, or whether the society is predominantly bilingual or monolingual.[58] Ellis also includes the distinction of whether the second language is learned in a natural or an educational setting.[59] Specific social factors that can affect second-language acquisition include age, gender, social class, and ethnic identity, with ethnic identity being the one that has received most research attention.[60] Situational factors are those which vary between each social interaction. For example, a learner may use more polite language when talking to someone of higher social status, but more informal language when talking with friends.[61]

Immersion programs provide a sociolinguistic setting that facilitates second-language acquisition. Immersion programs are educational programs where children are instructed in an L2 language [1]. Although the language of instruction is the L2 language, the curriculum parallels that of non-immersion programs and clear support exists in the L1 language, as the teachers are all bilingual. The goal of these programs is to develop a high level of proficiency in both the L1 and L2 languages. Students in immersion programs have been shown to have greater levels of proficiency in their second language than students who receive second language education only as a subject in school [1]. This is especially true in terms of their receptive skills. Also, students who join immersion programs earlier generally have greater second-language proficiency than their peers who join later. However, students that join later have been shown to gain native-like proficiency. Although immersion students' receptive skills are especially strong, their productive skills may suffer if they spend the majority of their time listening to instruction only. Grammatical skills and the ability to have precise vocabulary are particular areas of struggle. It is argued that immersion is necessary, but not sufficient for the development of native-like proficiency in a second language [1]. Opportunities to engage in sustained conversation, and assignments that encourage syntactical, as well as semantic development will help develop the productive skills necessary for bilingual proficiency [1].

A learner's sense of connection to their in-group, as well as to the community of the target language emphasize the influence of the sociolinguistic setting, as well as social factors within the second-language acquisition process. Social Identity Theory argues that an important factor for second language acquisition is the learner's perceived identity in relation to the community of the language being learned, as well as how the community of the target language perceives the learner [2]. Whether or not a learner feels a sense of connection to the community or culture of the target language helps determine their social distance from the target culture. A smaller social distance is likely to encourage learners to acquire the second language, as their investment in the learning process is greater. Conversely, a greater social distance will discourage attempts to acquire the target language. However, negative views not only come from the learner, but the community of the target language might feel greater social distance to the learner, limiting the learner's ability to learn the language [2]. Whether or not bilingualism is valued by the culture or community of the learner is an important indicator for the motivation to learn a language [3].

There have been several models developed to explain social effects on language acquisition. Schumann's Acculturation Model proposes that learners' rate of development and ultimate level of language achievement is a function of the "social distance" and the "psychological distance" between learners and the second-language community. In Schumann's model the social factors are most important, but the degree to which learners are comfortable with learning the second language also plays a role.[62] Another sociolinguistic model is Gardner's socio-educational model, which was designed to explain classroom language acquisition.[63] The inter-group model proposes "ethnolinguistic vitality" as a key construct for second-language acquisition.[64] Language socialization is an approach with the premise that "linguistic and cultural knowledge are constructed through each other",[65] and saw increased attention after the year 2000.[66] Finally, Norton's theory of social identity is an attempt to codify the relationship between power, identity, and language acquisition.[67]


Attrition is the loss of proficiency in a language caused by a lack of exposure to or use of a language [1]. It is a natural part of the language experience as it exists within a dynamic environment[2]. As the environment changes, the language adapts. One way in which it does this is by using L1 as a tool to navigate the periods of change associated with acquisition and attrition. A learner's L2 is not suddenly lost with disuse, but its communicative functions are slowly replaced by those of the L1[2]. Similar to second-language acquisition, second-language attrition occurs in stages. However, according to the regression hypothesis, the stages of attrition occur in reverse order of acquisition. With acquisition, receptive skills develop first, and then productive skills, and with attrition, productive skills are lost first, and then receptive skills[2].

Age, proficiency level, and social factors play a role in the way attrition occurs[2] Most often younger children are quicker than adults to lose their L2 when it is left unused. However if a child has established a high level of proficiency, it may take him or her several years to lose the language. Proficiency level seems to play the largest role in the extent of attrition. For very proficient individuals, there is a period of time where very little, if any, attrition is observed. For some, residual learning might even occur, which is the apparent improvement within the L2[2]. Within the first five years of language disuse, the total percentage of language knowledge lost will be less for a proficient individual than for someone less proficient. A cognitive psychological explanation for this suggests that a higher level of proficiency involves the use of schemas, or mental representations for linguistic structures. Schemas involve deeper mental processes for mental retrieval that are resistant to attrition. As a result, information that is tied to this system is less likely to experience less extreme attrition than information that is not[2]. Finally, social factors may play an indirect role in attrition. In particular, motivation and attitude influence the process. Higher levels of motivation, and a positive attitude toward the language and the corresponding community may lessen attrition. This is likely due to the higher level of competence achieved in L2 when the learner is motivated and has a positive attitude[2]. '

Affective factors

The learner's attitude to the learning process has also been identified as being critically important to second-language acquisition. Anxiety in language-learning situations has been almost unanimously shown to be detrimental to successful learning. Anxiety interferes with the mental processing of language because the demands of anxiety-related thoughts create competition for mental resources. This results in less available storage and energy for tasks required for language processing[1]. Not only this, but anxiety is also usually accompanied by self-deprecating thoughts and fear of failure, which can be detrimental for an individual's ability to learn a new language[2]. Learning a new language provides a unique situation which may even produce a specific type of anxiety, called language anxiety, that affects the quality of acquisition[3]. Also, anxiety may be detrimental for SLA because it can influence a learner's ability to attend to, concentrate on, and encode language information[2]. It may affect speed and accuracy of learning. Further, the apprehension created as a result of anxiety inhibits the learner's ability to retrieve and produce the correct information.

A related factor, personality, has also received attention. There has been discussion about the effects of extravert and introvert personalities. Extraverted qualities may help learners seek out opportunities and people to assist with L2 learning, whereas introverts may find it more difficult to seek out such opportunities for interaction[4]. However, it has also been suggested that, while extraverts might experience greater fluency, introverts are are likely to make fewer linguistic errors. Further, while extraversion might be beneficial through its encouragement of learning autonomously, it may also present challenges as learners may find reflective and time-management skills to be difficult[5]. However, one study has found that there were no significant differences between extraverts and introverts on the way they achieve success in a second language.[75]

Other personality factors, such as conscientiousness, agreeableness, and openness influence self-regulation, which helps L2 learners engage, process meaning, and adapt their thoughts, feelings, and actions to benefit the acquisition process[5]. SLA research has shown conscientiousness to be associated with time-management skills, metacognition, analytic learning, and persistence; agreeableness to effort; and openness to elaborative learning, intelligence, and metacognition. Both genetics and the learner's environment impact the personality of the learner, either facilitating or hindering an individual's ability to learn.

Social attitudes such as gender roles and community views toward language learning have also proven critical. Language learning can be severely hampered by cultural attitudes, with a frequently cited example being the difficulty of Navajo children in learning English[75].

Motivation of the individual learner is also of vital importance to the success of language learning. Motivation is influenced by goal salience, valence, and self-efficacy[6]. In this context, goal salience is the importance of the L2 learner's goal, as well as how often the goal is pursued; valence is the value the L2 learner places on SLA, determined by desire to learn and attitudes about learning the L2; and self-efficacy is the learner's own belief that he or she is capable of achieving the linguistic goal[6]. Studies have consistently shown that intrinsic motivation, or a genuine interest in the language itself, is more effective over the long term than extrinsic motivation, as in learning a language for a reward such as high grades or praise[75]. However, motivation is dynamic and, as a L2 learner's fluency develops, their extrinsic motivation may evolve to become more intrinsic[6]. Learner motivation can develop through contact with the L2 community and culture, as learners often desire to communicate and identify with individuals in the L2 community. Further, a supportive learning environment facilitates motivation through the increase in self-confidence and autonomy[6]. Learners in a supportive environment are more often willing to take on challenging tasks, thus encouraging L2 development.

  1. ^ Ashcraft, M. H., and Kirk, E. P. (2001). "The relationships among working memory, math anxiety and performance". Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. 
  2. ^ a b Cite error: The named reference :7 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  3. ^ MacIntyre, P.D., and Gardner, R.C.2 (1991a). "Language anxiety: Its relationship to other anxieties and to processing in native and foreign language". Language Learning. 
  4. ^ Cite error: The named reference :5 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  5. ^ a b Studenska, A. “Personality and parenting styles as predictors of self-regulation in foreign language learning.” In Arabski, Janusz; Wojtaszek, Adam; eds. Individual Learner Differences in SLA. North York (ON): Multilingual Matters. ISBN: 978-1-84769-434-8.
  6. ^ a b c d Piasecka, L. “Current views on foreign language reading motivation.” In Arabski, Janusz; Wojtaszek, Adam; eds. Individual Learner Differences in SLA. North York (ON): Multilingual Matters. ISBN: 978-1-84769-434-8

Beccabouma (talk) 04:27, 29 October 2015 (UTC)

Beccabouma These changes look really great and I think it's time to go live. Please add them to the main article. This will also draw the attention of other editors, though I see you already are receiving the help of Mr. Stradivarius which is great. Marentette (talk) 23:30, 1 November 2015 (UTC)
In the age section, I would like more refs for the claims about proficiency in seq learners, as well as the final sentence about proficiency comparing the two. Marentette (talk) 23:37, 1 November 2015 (UTC)
Marentette I will work on that section some more. Thank you! I have also add some more of what I have done to my talk page and I have tried to give you access to my sandbox if you didn't already have it. I hope it worked!Beccabouma (talk) 23:57, 1 November 2015 (UTC)
Beccabouma A few other things to consider as you add these to the article. You refer to some concepts, such as schemas, that may have pages in Wikipedia. Do link any first refs to such pages. Second, it won't be easy, but Wiki likes images. Can you think of any ways to incorporate examples, images, diagrams on this page. Finally, once you have put the changes in main space,you may want to archive this part of the talk page - or delete the proposed changes from the talk page (though I'm not sure about the etiquette of that). I can track which changes you made in other ways and Wiki says be bold,just make the changes. So we don't normally clutter talk pages with a record of the changes. Marentette (talk) 13:29, 2 November 2015 (UTC)
Beccabouma and CRHeck. This is looking good. A few further things to consider with the goal in mind of getting this page to B-Class. First, make sure any changes you made are reflected in the lead. These are the summary paragraphs at the top of the article before the contents list. This section is very important for skimmers. Ideally the contents of the lead reflect the entire article. Second, you may want to examine the specific grading scheme used by WikiProject Linguistics. Look at the detailed requirements for B-class. I think the article now meets many of these criterion. Can you push it further on any of them? Is there anything extraneous or redundant you could remove? Any parts that you could clarify? Good work here. Marentette (talk) 23:17, 8 November 2015 (UTC)


This wiki article is very well written! But, you may want to consider including or editing the following:

Under intro

May want to add citations in, I know that they may be cited later on in the article but it should still be cited.

In the 4th paragraph you may want to link cognitive approach, sociocultural approaches, individual factors, and affective factors. I note that these are described in greater detail later on the page however the link should appear the first time someone sees it for clarification if they need it.

Instead of saying "Differences between adult and child learners are also topics of interest" could be rephrase to "Another topic of interest to SLA research is the difference between adult and child learners".

Under Interlanguage

For clarification you can link semantic errors.

I don't have access to the source so I am just wondering if in the overgeneralization section did you get the German children from the citation indicated (17) or is it a new citation?

Under linguistic factors

For clarification you should link linguistic.

I know at the beginning it tells us what L2 acquisitions is but from what I have read it never tells us about L1 you should specify what this is (use brackets or whatever) so that people who do not make the connection can understand that it is the persons first language.

Individual variation

Under age

There might be an error in the edit by the critical period hypothesis, note 4 should be blue and linked but is not.

The sentence "However, in general, adult learners of a second-language rarely achieve the native-like fluency that children display, despite often progressing faster in the initial stages." should have a citation.

For clarification you could link simultaneous bilinguals, monolingual, sequential bilinguals.

In the middle and end of the 3rd paragraph there is red template:Tokowicz is this an error in editing or should this be removed? Also this section should have citations I'm assuming you got the information from another source (if the Tokowicz is the source ignore this comment).

In the 4th paragraph you can link positive reinforcement for clarification. At the end of the 4th paragraph the sentence " Some believe that only pronunciation is affected, while others believe other abilities are affected as well" who believes this? You might want to put in a citation here.

Under strategies

I'm not sure if you used a definition or made them up yourself but if you did use a source you might want to put in a citation.

I hope this was useful! — Preceding unsigned comment added by Rae.uofa (talkcontribs) 17:03, 16 November 2015 (UTC)


I felt that there was a lack of explaining motivation more in detail in the "socioculture" section of this wiki. Gardener's social-educational sheds lights on how much motivation can play a key role in SLA in a social context. Gardener's model is referred to as "operational" in that it focus on the acting driving forces like integrativeness and attitudes that move motivation. There is a natural effort by a L2 learner to learn the language, motivation influences this willingness. There is a separate wiki that discusses motivation as a factor for SLA, but it wasn't in here before, which would really give insight to a reader who want's to learn more about Gardener's model. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Ppacheco23 (talkcontribs) 02:15, 21 November 2015 (UTC)

No citation[edit]

As mention before by other editors this article has some citation issues.The paragraph below contains no citations, it also mentions "Research", but does not specify what research? Also some of the links in this article are not supported by scholarly books and articles. These links reflect more a personal opinion. The content is interesting however if someone wants to look for more information there is no reference to back it up.

Research on how exactly learners acquire a new language spans a number of different areas. Cognitive approaches to SLA research deal with the processes in the brain that underpin language acquisition, for example how paying attention to language affects the ability to learn it, or how language acquisition is related to short-term and long-term memory. Sociocultural approaches reject the notion that SLA is a purely psychological phenomenon, and attempt to explain it in a social context. Some key social factors that influence SLA are the level of immersion, connection to the L2 community, and gender. Linguistic approaches consider language separately from other kinds of knowledge, and attempt to use findings from the wider study of linguistics to explain SLA.There is also a considerable body of research about how SLA can be affected by individual factors such as age, learning strategies, and affective factors. Bellim18 (talk) 03:35, 23 March 2016 (UTC)

Hi Bellim18. :) Normally you would be right that material like this needs citations. However, this particular passage is in the lead section, and per Wikipedia's style guide on citations for the lead section, citations are optional for material in the lead that is already cited in the body of the article. If you don't find citations for any of the material in that passage further down in the article, feel free to remove it from the lead, or to find a citation for it and add it to the article body. Also, for material that does have citations further down, you can add that citation to the lead as well if you think it would be clearer. Best — Mr. Stradivarius ♪ talk ♪ 05:06, 23 March 2016 (UTC)
Also, you are quite right that the statements cited to non-scholarly sources are problematic. They should either be redrafted to cite proper academic sources, or removed. Please do go ahead and start work on them - be bold! — Mr. Stradivarius ♪ talk ♪ 05:12, 23 March 2016 (UTC)

Sequence of acquisition edits[edit]

Words like "remarkable" and "some" are too personal/opinionated. Be careful with the reuse of words as well. Below are edits I've made to this paragraph.

Although there were similarities in the order in which all learners learned second-language grammar, there were also differences among individuals and learners with different first languages. It is difficult to tell when grammatical structures have been learned, as learners may use structures correctly in some situations but not in others.

--SugeneShin (talk) 17:15, 17 October 2017 (UTC)