Avoiding the Comparative Fallacy: A Review of Two Recent SLA Studies

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Shirin Murphy


One of the most common approaches to studying L2 acquisition involves the comparison of L2 performance and L1 norms with regard to a particular linguistic feature. However, as Bley-Vroman (1983) points out, such an approach can be misleading, since the L1 norms may not be as clear-cut as the researchers claim, and the L2 errors may actually represent a systematic application of the learner’s developing target-language system. Rehner, Mougeon, & Nadasdi (2003) and Liu and Gleason (2002) represent two recent studies that examine L2 acquisition of particular target features. The following review will look at the ways in which the researchers take into account both L1 variability and the subtleties of the target features in order to gain a more accurate perspective on the L2 acquisition process.

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