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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

October 2011, Vol. 23, No. 10, Pages 2716-2730
(doi: 10.1162/jocn.2011.21607)
© 2011 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Second-language Instinct and Instruction Effects: Nature and Nurture in Second-language Acquisition
Article PDF (360.93 KB)
Abstract

Adults seem to have greater difficulties than children in acquiring a second language (L2) because of the alleged “window of opportunity” around puberty. Postpuberty Japanese participants learned a new English rule with simplex sentences during one month of instruction, and then they were tested on “uninstructed complex sentences” as well as “instructed simplex sentences.” The behavioral data show that they can acquire more knowledge than is instructed, suggesting the interweaving of nature (universal principles of grammar, UG) and nurture (instruction) in L2 acquisition. The comparison in the “uninstructed complex sentences” between post-instruction and pre-instruction using functional magnetic resonance imaging reveals a significant activation in Broca's area. Thus, this study provides new insight into Broca's area, where nature and nurture cooperate to produce L2 learners' rich linguistic knowledge. It also shows neural plasticity of adult L2 acquisition, arguing against a critical period hypothesis, at least in the domain of UG.