The Influence of Changing L1 on Child Second Language Acquisition

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Eun-Young Kwon


This paper presents a 26-month longitudinal study of a child who began learning English while developing her native Korean, conducted in order to investigate the role of language transfer in child SLA. The study examined the subject’s first language (L1) and second language (L2) negation, and plural and possessive markings. It looked for evidence of language transfer (LT) using comparisons to English L2 data from speakers with similar and dissimilar L1s, as well as comparisons between the subject’s L2 speech and her L1 system (Jarvis, 2000). The data showed evidence of LT for all features studied, with a predominance of Korean to English transfer early in the study period, and English to Korean toward the end. Results are interpreted using Foster-Cohen’s (2001) Sliding Window approach, which states that rather than neatly distinguishing L1 from L2 acquisition or early from late SLA, individual development along a variety of axes should be considered, including age, cognitive maturity, and native-like performance in L1. From this standpoint, the subject’s waxing and waning L2 performance across the study period appears to reflect changes in her L1 and in intensity of exposure to both languages.

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