International Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching
Ed. by Jordens, Peter / Roberts, Leah
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For several decades the topic of age effects on ultimate attainment has been high on the agenda of many second language acquisition researchers. A first major evaluation of research in this area was published by Long (1990), who summarized the findings of studies conducted since Penfield and Roberts (1959) and Lenneberg (1967) developed their versions of a critical period hypothesis for language acquisition. Long (1990: 280) argued that the combined findings of the studies conducted to date warranted the conclusion that
The ability to attain native-like phonological abilities in an SL begins to decline by age 6 in many individuals and to be beyond anyone beginning later than age 12, no matter how motivated they might be or how much opportunity they might have. Native-like morphology and syntax only seem to be possible for those beginning before age 15.
In line with most proponents of a critical period for SLA, Long (1990: 280) posited that the decline in abilities is due to incremental (and presumably irreversible) losses of neural plasticity due to brain maturation.
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