By Birgit Harley
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Extra resources for Age in second language acquisition
G. Page 7 Scovel, 1981:37). Seliger, on the basis of studies showing different types of aphasia in different age groups, argues in favour of a "multiple critical periods hypothesis" for L2 acquisition, correlating with interhemispheric and intrahemispheric localization of language functions and a gradual loss of plasticity. Thus: "Because localization does not take place at once, but affects different aspects of language at different periods of life, one would expect a different timetable to evolve in terms of different language abilities.
Cummins proposes that cognitive maturity is an asset primarily in dealing with the relatively context-reduced and cognitively demanding types of skills that are related to school achievement. Based on the argument that such language skills, which correlate highly with IQ scores, are interdependent in L1 and L2, Cummins (1979a, 1981a) predicts that older, more mature learners with a background of schooling in L1 will acquire these skills in the L2 more rapidly than younger learners. However, older learners will not necessarily find it easier than younger school-aged learners to acquire cognitively undemanding aspects of interpersonal communicative skills in context-embedded situations.
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.