Chapter 17. The cognitive neuroscience of second language acquisition and bilingualism

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In this chapter I aim to systematically discuss the various factors that play a role in the second language acquisition processes that finally lead to what is known as ultimate attainment – from a neuro-imaging point of view. Therefore a basic threefold classification into “biological”, “psychological” and “socio-linguistic” factors is tentatively offered. The main focus lies in reviewing recent brain-imaging literature from the relatively young field of “bilingual brain imaging” with the attempt to integrate definitions used in the field of SLA research with the terminology of brain imaging experiments on bilinguals or second language learners. The aim is to put that into a wider framework of second language acquisition by proposing a systematic classification according to which individual differences in L2 learning could better be described. Important factors like, for example, age of onset of learning, proficiency level, experience/exposure, or language aptitude are highlighted and critically discussed.


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