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Summary of "Critical period effects in second language learning - The influence of maturational state on the acquisition of English as a second language", by Jacqueline S. Johnson and Elissa L. Newport,

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1 Psychology of Human Development 3054, Section 5014F 19 October 2001 Summary of "Critical Period Effects in Second Language Learning: The Influence of Maturational State on the Acquisition of English as A Second Language", by Jacqueline S. Johnson and Elissa L. Newport, Published by Cognitive Psychology in 1989, pages 60-99. The original paper attempts to focus on whether or not the ability to adopt a second language, namely English, also lies within a certain designated period which defines the period for first language acquirement as well. Johnson and Newport attempted to modify Lenneberg's definition of the original critical period (mentioned below) into two versions: "The exercise hypothesis and The maturational state hypothesis". The first version implies that the attainment of a native language needs to be rehearsed during a period in early life and the ability will decrease with age. However, once this has been accomplished, the attainment of a second language is quite feasible at any point during the person's lifetime. The second version implies that full native or even multiple language attainment abilities are present only during an early period of life and if this period is not utilized, learning of any language decreases with age. ...read more.


It tested the ability of deaf subjects to learn American Sign Language, ASL, from childbirth, 4-6 years after childbirth and ages 12 and older; all of whom have been using ASL as their native language for approximately 40 years. In all, they have concluded that those who learned ASL at the earliest age understood and practiced the language more efficiently than the others whose abilities subsequently decreased. Where the results differed from Lenneberg's were that language acquirement progressively decreased rather than suddenly but it could still be acquired after the acclaimed critical period. Under certain measures, participants who were chosen in the study consisted of a mixture of 46 Chinese or Korean immigrants who lived in the U.S. for approximately 5 years and were exposed to the English language generally at school and work and spoke their respective languages in their residences. There were two groups: "the early arrivals 3 who arrived before 15 years and the late arrivals who arrived after 17 years of age". However, these groups were practically almost equal when it came to "years of exposure". ...read more.


It was found that language-learning abilities decreased until adolescence, after which it leveled off somewhat into 4 adulthood. This conclusion has verified the second version of the critical period hypothesis. However, this does not rule out the possibility of the first version since studies on immigrants with first languages other than Chinese and Korean are underway. One aspect of the study that may have been a surprise was that second language learning started decreasing during the age ranges of "8 to 10" years and maybe the same if not less for first language learning. Even though learning was shown to decrease with age, this does not specify that linguistic learning was impossible, but was rather capricious on the account of each of the participants. Overall, a critical period has been shown to exist for both types of language attainments. The findings of this study are important as the specifics are now known and will therefore be more influential. This knowledge will be advantageous to parents who want their children to attain a second language or even multiple languages including their first or native language. Learning multiple languages will always be beneficial since pertinent communication skills will always be necessary for successful interactions. ...read more.

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