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Second Language Acqustion and Fossilization

The term fossilization is bereft of general definition and it has not been explained empirically and sufficiently. The term introduced by Selinker captures the imagination that the majority of the second language learners are not able to meet native-like fluency in the language they wish to learn which is also called the target language. This general dearth of meeting the end differs sharply from the first language acquisition where native ability is the rule. The zeal to comprehend this manifest infirmity has been instrumental in maintaining interests in fossilization but has not been succeeded in producing empirical description and consensus-based view of the phenomenon. The present conception of the term starts with an introduction to the pertinent conceptual and empirical issues in fossilization research.

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Despite the mammoth research undertaken by the scholars, the problems remain as such. Research dissection of the current fossilization research has revealed that a great deal of variety exists in the contemporary definitions and explanations of the term. Han has made the differentiation between the local and international side of the concept. On a bigger scale, fossilization impacts all inter-language dictating it unlikely that any other second language learner will be able to imbibe it further. “According to some researchers, the defining difference between a first language (L1) and a second language (L2) is the age at which the language was learned. For example, linguistic Eric Lenneberg used second language to mean a language consciously acquired or used by its speaker after puberty. In most cases, people never achieve the same level of fluency and comprehension in their second languages as in their first language. These views are closely associated with the critical period hypothesis”( Hyltenstam, K & Abrahamsson, N (2003). Maturational Constraints in SLA. In Doughty & Long).

This sense emerges from general depictions of the end of development, where no endeavor is undertaken to differentiate special subtypes or attributes of fossilized grammatical knowledge. On the other side of the prism, it can also be viewed in local terms that special features can fossilize while progress in other domains moves ahead persistently. For illustration, such a synthesis of development and stillness for one Japanese learner is examined by Schmidt. “The acquisition of a language is a natural process; whereas learning a language is a conscious one. In the former, the student needs to partake in natural communicative situations. In the latter, error correction is present, as is the study of grammatical rules isolated from natural language. Not all educators in second language agree to this distinction; however, the study of how a second language is learned/acquired is referred to as Second Language Acquisition or SLA” (Patkowski, M. 1980: The sensitive period for the acquisition of syntax in a second language).

The number two thing is that fossilization is a matter of substitution taken as an outcome or process. Seen from the product perspective, it is the condition of everlasting static development either globally or locally. Historically, speaking, this view has descended from this definition, “[fossilization is] the long term persistence of plateaus of non-target-like structures in the inter-language of non-native” (Selinker and Lakshmanan, 1992: 197).

Statements like this mean that is in the realm of possibility to identify and document fossilized structures using an empirical probe. Many attempts for this sake have been undertaken by the subject researchers. From the perspective of process, it does not require essentially the absence of development in a special domain rather than it can also allude to the inclination towards the demise of the progress. “While there are many similarities between L1 and L2 learning, the variation in situation and other factors also produces many differences. One difficulty is filtering out differences that are accidental rather than inevitable. L1 children mostly acquire language in different settings with different exposure to language than L2 learners and they are at different stages of mental and social maturity. It may be inherently impossible to compare equivalent L1 and L2 learners. A more precise version of this question asks whether adults still have access to Universal Grammar in the mind” (Bley-Vroman 1988, Differences between L1 and L2 acquisition.

First of all the conception of fossilization sprang from Selinkers’ idea of a fossilization mechanism element of the latent psychological structure. The activism of this mechanism overtime was considered to distract L2 development in most of the learners. This may reach up to 95 percent of the learners. Therefore the term fossilization pertained to the description for declining/stagnant progress and could be percept empirically merely through its symptoms like backsliding. The process versus production demarcation summaries to the points whether the term alludes to a condition that is observed directly or a perceptive process to be noticed indirectly.

In recent times, this demarcation has been confused or blurred to some extent. Han has re-sketched the process from the perspective of the empirical forecasts it generates. She stresses that evidence of fossilization can be present without endorsement that learning has become stagnant absolutely, though the fossilizations process should not be comprehended as a description or mechanism for this to be like this. On the other hand front the product viewpoint, there is no unity that it must stand for an absolute dearth of transformation or variability in the IL. One scholar grooms the concept ‘permanent optionally’, which suggests that second language learner end state can grasp a variety of unknown linguistic abilities. By constant, another researcher debates his study of Ayako, a Japanese immigrant to Hawaii in 1948, who still shows explosive inflectional identification on nouns and verbs.

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Lastly, directly relevant to this production process differentiation is the issue of whit is made up of feasible empirical description of fossilization. Several researchers have investigated to document structures in adults. For the objective of the study of fossilization to develop effectively, some conceptual consensus is required. In the absence of it, whether it can be active on a global or local level, whether it is an outcome that can be evaluated or an inclination to be noticed or whether it must show stability or stable optionally, it is beyond the realm of possibility to delineate acceptable empirical studies and to gauge their findings. The endpoint of research is to reorient an initial account of the flaw in second language acquisition. Here the failure is taken as the everlasting deficiency of grasp of the second language despite uninterrupted exposure to sufficient feedback, thus fossilization can be synonym with such flaw in SLA.

There is a fundamental requirement of a one and systematic approach to the research which is also the propellant behind it. It is expected that a compact comprehension of fossilization would be instrumental in assisting an accomplished theory of SLA. Hans’ conceptual reference is the basis of his great work on fossilization. He is actuated by the goal of coherence in fossilization research. There is the need to comprehend the term on two levels and they are macroscopic and microscopic. Fossilization research on the macro level explains why kids learn language more productively as compared to adults overall. Particularly, critical period influences are considered as macro-level agents. On the other hand, at a micro-level, fossilization research takes into account the linguistics attributes that mostly fossilize differently in learners. Morphology has more chances of being fossilized than vocabulary. And the agents that provoke learners to vary in their overall learning capacity and proficiency. The biological and perceptive hindrances that are present on the macro level cannot explain the variation in acquisition products that have been endorsed in the literature. A microscopic level of analysis is also essential for understanding the processes. We can take into account the definition of fossilization about ultimate achievement. “The “fossilization puzzle” continues to intrigue, challenge, and confound second language scholars and practitioners alike. Over the years, it has attracted researchers from a myriad of theoretical orientations and backgrounds and inspired hundreds of studies. In a book that is both open to and respectful of differences, Han and Odlin have assembled a collection of some of the most recent studies by esteemed scholars. As such, Studies of Fossilization in Second Language Acquisition has much to offer its intended readership of SLA researchers, students, and practitioners. However, as it presumes a rather sophisticated understanding of English grammar (and its accompanying Metalanguage) and a fairly solid grounding in the theoretical underpinnings of fossilization research, this volume may be beyond the reach of some readers”(Columbia University Working Papers, 2006, Studies Of Fossilization In Second Language Acquisition).

L2 ultimate attainment has three aspects of not more than that. They include: cross general failure, inter learner differential success or failure, and intra learner one. It is quite patent and manifests that in this framework of ultimate attainment success and failure move side by side. However, the three aspects of ultimate attainment do show fossilization in that they entangle everlasting constrained progress of some type. This explanation appears to knock out the possibility of absolute success as chances of failure of always there reminding the fact that is inherent in the process. Furthermore, it is also emphasized that fossilization is local as compared to global that is so by process and not the product. The last of these is more polemical. It is again mentioned here that encompassing fossilization as a process needs researchers to investigate proof of inclination towards permanent stabilization as compared to an invariant goal. However, empirically knowing that an inclination towards the demise of learning is present is not present without its issues. Additionally, for the explanation that L2 learners are universally prepared fossilization both biological and perceptive hindrances are taken into rime account. The ultimate end is to reach at censuses what fossilization is and how it can be explained empirically. Here at this point, insufficient developments have happened. “We have seen that theoretical unity in some areas has been reached by the authors represented here. Nevertheless, perspectives on fossilization remain diverse and idiosyncratic. Empirically, as well, there is little consensus as to what methodologies for investigating fossilization apart from conducting multi-year longitudinal studies of learners immersed in the target language will yield reliable results. Moving forward from this point, new methodological perspectives and additional empirical research will hopefully pave the way for increasing clarification of the issues that have been raised within these works”( Han, Z.-H. and Odlin, T. 2005: Studies of fossilization in second language acquisition).


Patkowski, M. 1980: The sensitive period for the acquisition of syntax in a second language. Language Learning 30, 449–72.

Hyltenstam, K & Abrahamsson, N 2003. Maturational Constraints in SLA. In Doughty & Long (Eds.), The Handbook of Second Language Acquisition. Rowley, MA: Blackwell.

Han, Z.-H. and Odlin, T. 2005: Studies of fossilization in second language acquisition. Multilingual Matters.

Han, Z.-H. and Odlin, T. 2005: Studies of fossilization in second language acquisition. Multilingual Matters.

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Columbia University Working Papers, 2006, Studies Of Fossilization In Second Language Acquisition. 2006, Vol. 6, No. 1

Bley-Vroman 1988, Differences between L1 and L2 acquisition.elis 94. 2008. Web.

Schachter, J. 1988. Second Language Acquisition and its relationship to Universal Grammar. Applied Linguistics 9, 3, 219-235.


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