"Morphological variability in SLA:

A hardy perennial"

Lydia White, McGill University

ABSTRACT: It is well known that L2 learners show considerable variability in suppliance of bound inflectional morphology, such as tense and agreement, as well as closed class lexical items associated with functional categories, such as determiners and auxiliaries. Problems with inflectional morphology contrast with relative success with related syntactic properties. In some cases, divergence between morphology and syntax is found even in endstate grammars. Currently, there are (at least) three types of accounts of the phenomenon: (i) morphological variability reflects a learning problem and will eventually disappear; (ii) it is the consequence of an impairment to linguistic representation; (iii) it reflects a processing (or 'mapping') problem -- relevant abstract knowledge is present but not always accessible. In this paper, I examine different perspectives on morphological variability, with particular consideration of implications for theories that assume 'access' to UG in second language acquisition.

BIOGRAPHY: Lydia White is Professor of Linguistics at McGill University, Montreal, Canada, and Chair of the Linguistics Department. She has a BA in Philosophy and Psychology from Cambridge University (England) and a Ph.D. in Linguistics from McGill University. She is internationally known as a leading expert on second language acquisition. Her research centers on the nature of the unconscious linguistic knowledge achieved by L2 learners, with special consideration given to the role of Universal Grammar. Her 1989 book, Universal Grammar and Second Language Acquisition, is the definitive text in this field. She publishes regularly in major international journals on language acquisition and presents papers at international conferences. She is frequently invited to give plenary addresses at such conferences. She is a member of the European Second Language Association; she is on the Program Committee of the Canadian Linguistics Association, as well as on the advisory board of the Japanese Second Language Association. She is on the editorial boards of several international journals (Language Acquisition; Second Language Research; Studies in Second Language Acquisition). She co-edits a book series (Language Acquisition and Language Disorders) published by John Benjamins. She has been involved in the organization of several international conferences (Second Language Research Forum; Generative Approaches to Second Language Acquisition; Canadian Linguistics Association/ Canadian Association of Applied Linguistics).


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