Taalverwerving in onderzoek
  • ISSN 0169-7420
  • E-ISSN: 2213-4883
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This paper critically examines Pienemann's theory of second-language acquisition orders. The paper raises methodological as well as theoretical issues: the validity of the acquisition order found by Clahsen, Meisel & Pienemann (1983), evidence for this order from longitudinal research, evidence from learners with various mother tongues, the relation between language production and language comprehension, and predictions concerning other linguistic structures than the ones dealt with in the 1983 study.The paper focuses in particular on Pienemann's recent claim (1987b), that the acquisition order of L2 structures is determined by a number of cognitive 'processing prerequisites'. It is observed that Pienemann has shifted his attention from the point at which L2 learners can be said to have acquired, or mastered, grammatical features, towards the onset (first few occurrences) of grammatical features, in order to find evidence for a successive reduction of processing constraints. It is argued that explanations of acquisition orders in terms of onset, or in terms of some other acquisition criterion (e.g. 80% correct use in obligatory context), tend to pay exclusive attention to the rank order of acquisition points, leaving underexposed the time span between first use and final mastery of a rule, and the overlap in acquisition periods of different rules. Often the acquisition of a grammatical feature may not be an instantaneous feat, but a developmental process. Therefore, rank orders of onset and mastery may lose much of their relevance if length and overlap (development) are not taken into account. It is argued that Pienemann's theory, having opened our eyes for the onset of grammatical features, deserves to be deepened and broadened, in order to take the development of grammatical features into account as well.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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