By Birgit Harley

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Kinsbourne (1975) and Kinsbourne & Hiscock (1977) present additional evidence suggesting that cerebral dominance for language is present by age three, if not already at birth. Moreover, Whitaker, Bub & Leventer (1981) caution in the light of current research that there are today no known neurological correlates for a critical period for language acquisition that ends specifically at, or around, puberty. The pattern of growth and development in the cortex is viewed by Whitaker et al. as both multi-dimensional and multi-temporal.

In a table presented in an article in 1966, Lenneberg makes more specifically age-related predictions: At age 11 to 14, "foreign accents emerge," while from "mid-teens to senium" ... "acquisition of second languages becomes increasingly difficult" (Lenneberg, 1966: 248). Variations on Lenneberg's neurologically based critical period hypothesis have been proposed by, for example, Scovel (1969) and Seliger (1978), who both argue that puberty represents the approximate close, for most individuals, of a critical period for the acquisition of a native-like L2 accent.

A major purpose of this book is to carry out such an examination of empirical studies in the light of the various theoretical perspectives that have been brought to bear on the age issue. The analysis of the literature in Part I leads to a number of conclusions Page xii concerning the need for further research on specific aspects of L2 acquisition by older and younger learners. In Part II, some of these conclusions are brought to bear in an empirical study of age-related differences in L2 acquisition which was carried out in the educational context of early and late French immersion programs in the province of Ontario, Canada.

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Age in second language acquisition by Birgit Harley
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