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Maturation Constraints on Language Development
|Title:||Maturation Constraints on Language Development|
|Contributors:||University of Hawaii at Manoa. Department of English as a Second Language. (department)|
|Abstract:||Despite several decades of research and writing on the topic, serious differences of opinion persist as to the scope and source of maturational constraints on language development. While many accept the weak version of the critical period hypothesis for first language acquisition, there are those who deny any subsequent age-related decline in adult language learning abilities and/or reject the existence of sensitive periods for non-primary language acquisition. Further, even among those who acknowledge the existence of subsequent maturational constraints, there is considerable disagreement as to the linguistic domains to which they apply and as to their explanations.|
The issue is important since it bears fundamentally on second language acquisition theory building and because it has implications for practice in language teaching and other areas. This paper reviews findings from studies of first and second language development, concluding that they are consistent with the hypothesis that both are controlled by language specific biology, and that both are subject to maturational constraints, specifically sensitive periods during which learning is successful, and after which it is irregular and incomplete. Four potential explanations for the constraints are discussed: affective, cognitive, input and neurological factors. All are problematic, but only three seem wrong.
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