Critical Review of two studies in Second Language Acquisition


Critical Review of two studies in Second Language Acquisition

One essay reviewing two research studies conducted within different theoretical frameworks (1100-1400 words)

-When you have found an article that you would like to review, you then go through the references of that paper to see if you can find other relevant papers — and perhaps even some that come from a different theoretical perspective. Of course, you will still need to carefully read and study some of these papers, but looking at other’s references will help guide your search for the right paper.

Dear writer,

I have already attached one of the studies, read it very well and find another study to review them both in one essay. Close attention must be paid to the term that the two studies must be relevant but in different theoretical perspectives.

a)When you find a relevant study within different theoretical perspective, I must have a look at it before you work on it.

b)Turnitin result must be 10% or less.

c)Follow the APA referencing style accurately.

d)Use the text book of this subject which is (Theories in Second Language Acquisition An Introduction by Bill VanPatten, Jessica Williams) to command the idea of (theoretical perspective)

e)Keep in mind that this assignment is for a subject called Investigating Second Language Acquisition.


Student’s Name:

Instructor’s Name:

Course Code and Name:


Date Assignment is due:


An analysis of Japanese university students’ oral performance in English using processability theory by Sekai, H. (2008)  2

Exploring the typological plausibility of processability theory: language development in Itailan second language and Japanese second language by Di Biasse, B., & Kawaguchi, S. (2002). 6

References. 7

An analysis of Japanese university students’ oral performance in English using processability theory by Sekai, H. (2008)

In this study, the processability theory is summarized and then tested through the oral performance of Japanese-speaking university students. In this theory, five procedures through which language processing takes place are highlighted. The validity of the theory is tested through considering the speech data from seven English learners of EFL (English as a Foreign Language). In all the five communicative tasks that they perform, analysis is made in terms of word order, interrogatives, and negation.

Sekaiagrees with Pienemann (1998, 2003), who proposed the processability theory for the first time when he reports the suggestions that processability theory may be valid for EFL learners who speak Japanese as their first language. Sekai also suggests that these Japanese EFL learners can always produce interlanguage structures or forms that are accurately predicted by processability theory.

Psychological constraints, according to the proponents of processability theory, feature greatly in determining the types of structures that learners of a language produce, and the order in which they are produced (Sekai, 2008). In Sekai’s case, the psychological perspective is well captured, though he chooses to embark on a small-scale study.

An accurate critique of this paper can be done best through reference to the five processing procedures, which are language-specific. The first, one word access, entails merely access to the lexicon that is devoid of any grammatical categorization (Håkansson, Pienemann, &Sayehli, 2002). In this regard, the errors that the learner makes can be predicted. For instance, he may be unable to distinguish between a noun and a verb. In the second one, the category procedure, grammatical categorization and diacritic features are incorporated in the learner’s lexicon, such that a difference between plural and singular is understood. The phrasal procedure is marked by the learner’s ability to store and unify diacritic features between both the head of a phrase and all its modifiers. In the S-procedure the necessary grammatical information has to be internalized for use in unifying the subject with its verb phrase. The last one, the clause procedure, is characterized by the learner’s ability to identify different types of clauses: main clauses and subordinate clauses.

For Sekai, the main aim is to show the interrelatedness of the five stages and their occurrence in that order using the speech output of the seven Japanese students in each of the five oral tasks that they performed. Additionally, he faces the task of showing that the learner’s interlanguage arises when one of the procedures is missing in the implicational hierarchy, forcing the learner to map conceptual structures directly onto surface form (Pienemann, 1998). The implication here is that the interlanguage forms that are possible are determined solely by totality of the processing procedures of the learner.

A critical element that Sekai uses is perceptual salience, a complementary procedure proposed by proponents of processability theory, whereby the learner is able to identify the initial and final positions of sentences. This brings the concepts of syntax and morphology into a close perspective in terms of how they determine the learner’s choice and patterning of structures. Perceptual salience enables the researcher to address issues of SVO, lexical morphological markers, tense markers, phrasal morphemes Wh-word inversion and DO-fronting (Pienemann, Di Biasse& Kawaguchi, 2006).

The empirical evidence that validates the processability theory is all-inclusive, though it dwells largely on Germanic languages. The study also highlights the opposing views that have been expressed against the theory, notably those of Fetter (1996). A curious observation that Fetter (1996) makes is absence of enough features to support the relevance of implicational stages of a South Korean EFL English learner. Sekai’s criticism of Fetter (1996) is accurate in the way he introduces the concept of ‘evidence for non-application’, which Fetter’s study did not put into consideration. 

The method used in the study is clearly defined, paving way for other researchers to carry out critical assessments. For instance, one may not question the rationale for the researcher choosing to focus on word order, interrogatives and negation; all the learners had learned these concepts before. However, it is not clear whether all of them had equal levels of competence in these areas, except how far back in the past they had acquired this knowledge. Meanwhile, the choice of arranging the 15 selected structures vertically by stages of development and horizontally by structure of language makes the analysis easy.

The choice of emergence criteria was properly substantiated through relevant literature, based on the need to analyze the respondents’ syntactic structures (Pienemann, 2005). However, it is not clear why the researcher did not choose the modified form of emergence criteria, as it is the norm in a study of this type, where judgment on developmental stages has to be made.

The concept of application of a linguistic context for the application of a structure is not clear. A good example is the non-application of pseudo-inversion and the inability by the learners to produce SVO? structures. Taku and Maki, two of the respondents, failed to produce any structures containing instances of pseudo-inversion. In case the learners produced these structures, a basis for falsifying the implicational pattern would have been made. It appears as if this research did not leave the ground open for any such falsification to occur.

Although Sekai(2008) manages to prove the compatibility of the processability theory with the interlanguage produced by Japanese EFL speakers, he does not state with certainty whether these learners are in stage 5 or 6 in the proficiency hierarchy. This limitation makes it difficult for the findings of the study to be generalized. The limitation of focusing on only the production aspect of linguistic competence is also worth highlighting. This is because the processability theory derives its relevance from all scenarios whereby linguistic procedural skills are involved, and not production alone. This sets the stage for suggestions for further research. In this case, more research ought to focus on other linguistic activities that take place during learning.

Exploring the typological plausibility of processability theory: language development in Itailan second language and Japanese second language by Di Biasse, B., & Kawaguchi, S. (2002)

            In this study, the authors test the processability theory’s typological plausibility with regard to Italian and Japanese. Previously, the theory has been tested using Germanic languages alone. Italian and Japanese are typologically different from Germanic languages, hence the study’s relevance. Unlike in Sekai’s study, emphasis is put on both occurrence and distribution of various structures, and not only on the basis of the emergence criteria. Moreover, the data used is gathered in naturalistic and empirical manner, solely from adult learners.

            However, a similarity between this study and Sekai’s can be noted in the way both researchers refer to Pienemann’s (1998) general architecture of processability theory with regard to applicability in different languages. In this regard, the need for empirical observation of all the outlined procedures are emphasized(Di Biasse& Kawaguchi, 2002), (Dyson, 2009).

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            Additionally, Di Biass& Kawaguchi (2002) indicate with certainty the predictions that should be expected after close analysis of the typologically different language. After using the Lexical Functional Grammar approach, they arrive at a succinct indication of the link between the interlanguage of EFL learners and the various stages of processability theory. However, this study brings to the fore the issue of how to maintain a balance between the scope of linguistic analysis and in terms of linguistic practices under analysis on the one hand and focusing on a certain area of analysis, say production, on the other.

            In summary both studies make significant contributions to the study of EFL language acquisition with regard to use of processability theory. The limitations that are inherent in both of them form a basis for further research. Notably, all the researchers involved in the studies emphasize the need for many other languages to be studied for their compatibility with the processability theory, and not just Germanic languages.


Di Biasse, B. & Kawaguchi, S. (2002) Exploring the typological plausibility of processability theory: language development in Itailan second language and Japanese second language, Second Language Research, 18, 274-302.

Dyson, B. (2009) Processability Theory and the role of morphology in English as a second language development: a longitudinal study, Second Language Research 25(3), 355-376.

Håkansson, G., Pienemann, M. &Sayehli, S. (2002) Transfer and typological proximity in the context of second language processing, Second Language Research 18(3), 250-273 

Pienemann ,M. (Ed.) (2005) Cross-linguistic aspects of processability theory, Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Pienemann, M., Di Biasse, B. & Kawaguchi, S (2006) “Extending Processability Theory” in Pienemann, M. (Ed.) Cross-linguistic aspects of processability theory, Amsterdam: Benjamins Publishing Company.

Sekai, H. (2008) An analysis of Japanese university students’ oral performance in English using processability theory, System, 36, 534-549.

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