Fossilization—A classic concern of SLA research

Authored by: ZhaoHong Han

The Routledge Handbook of Second Language Acquisition

Print publication date:  November  2011
Online publication date:  June  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415479936
eBook ISBN: 9780203808184
Adobe ISBN: 9781136666896


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A frequently noted fact out of a spectrum observed of second language acquisition (SLA) is that in almost all post-pubescent learners, learning stagnates, in spite of all or any favorable conditions that would otherwise propel it (Gass and Selinker, 2008; Sharwood Smith, 1994; Towell and Hawkins, 1994; VanPatten and Williams, 2007). Whereas this fact itself has largely remained a conundrum— notwithstanding abundant speculations that exist, it is further complicated by two additional facets, selectivity and variability. That is, learners do not seem to stabilize prematurely within and across each and every linguistic domain (e.g., phonology, semantics, morphology, syntax), hence selectivity; nor do they all stall on the same linguistic elements, hence variability, even though noticeable overlap does exist, particularly in learners of the same first language background.

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