Learning, Unlearning, and Learnability: The Role of Feature Assembly in Second Language Acquisition

When:8 Apr 2015, 11am - 12:30pm
Venue:Morven Brown G4, UNSW Kensington (map ref C20)
Who:Donna Lardiere (Georgetown University)
Donna Lardiere


In this talk, I explore the theoretical construct of ultimate attainment and consider the question of whether it is (im)possible for adult language learners to attain nativelike knowledge in any given grammatical domain in a second language (L2). In particular, I look more closely at the relative difficulty of (a) identifying certain formal features (such as number, definiteness, animacy, and case) as distinct components of L2 morpholexical items and (b) determining the various environments that condition their use, especially in cases where these conditions differ considerably from those of the L1. Using examples and data from studies of L2 English, Indonesian, and Korean, I discuss the kinds of predictions that might be made based on learners’ prior language knowledge and on the complexity of the linguistic phenomena in question. Data from these studies suggest that nativelike knowledge of the interaction of features and their conditioning environments in the L2 is in principle ultimately acquirable, even if not mastered by most learners until very advanced stages of proficiency (if ever).

About Donna Lardiere

Donna Lardiere is Professor of Linguistics at Georgetown University. She is the author of Ultimate Attainment in Second Language Acquisition: A Case Study (Taylor & Francis/Routledge). Her research focuses on the role of linguistic theory in second language acquisition, particularly the acquisition of morphology and syntax.


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