The Natural Order Hypothesis

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					The Natural Order Hypothesis

The natural order hypothesis was suggested by the evidence from the morpheme
studies, and Krashen presents it in the following way:

    ... this hypothesis ... states that we acquire the rules of language in a predictable
    order, some rules tending to come early and others late. The order does not appear
    to be determined solely by formal simplicty and there is evidence that it is
    independent of the order in which rules are taught in language classes. (1985: 1)

Crucially, the `natural order' of development is only evident in unconsciously
acquired L2 knowledge which underlies performance (both comprehension and
production) in natural uses of the L2 (such as using the L2 to express thought, to
communicate with others, to understand what others are saying). Such knowledge
corresponds to what we have been calling interlanguage competence/an ILG.
Consciously learned knowledge about the L2, which might be deployed in special
language tasks, like grammar tests, gap-filling and translation does not necessarily
display natural orders of development, and may be in conflict with what has been
acquired unconsciously. This leads to the second hypothesis:

The acquisition-learning hypothesis

This proposes that L2 speakers can establish two different kinds of knowledge about
the target L2: acquired knowledge (which is the ILG) and learned knowledge, which
is akin to the kind of knowledge that people have when they are learning to drive a
car: a conscious set of rules that guide the actions of the body:

    There are two independent ways of developing ability in second languages.
    `Acquisition' is a subconscious process identical in all important ways to the
    process children utilize in acquiring their first language, while `learning' is a
    conscious process that results in `knowing about' language. (1985: 1)

These two knowledge sources can interact under certain circumstances in that L2
speakers can use learned knowledge to `monitor' the output of the acquired ILG, and
where it is different correct that output prior to production (or after production in the
case of a `self-repair'). This is the third hypothesis: the Monitor Hypothesis. In his
1985 formulation Krashen suggested that `monitoring' can occur where a speaker
`knows the rule' and where he/she is consciously concerned about correctness of form.

Two observations that led Krashen to the Monitor Hypothesis were:

(a) that L2 speakers are often able to judge their own performance after the event and
make corrections to it. E.g. when they are shown transcripts of their oral production
they can usually determine some properties which they know not to be target-like.
Krashen (1982, chapter 4) estimates that L2 speakers can self-correct from 7% to
about 50% of their non-native forms, depending on the person in question;

Krashen, S. 1982: Principles and practice in second language acquisition. London: Pergamon.
(b) the variability shown by the same L2 speaker when using the L2 under different
task conditions. A study by Ellis (1987) illustrates this phenomenon. Ellis examined
the effect of the amount of planning on L2 speakers' ability to mark the past tense in
obligatory contexts. There were 17 informants from various L1 backgrounds of `post-
beginner' proficiency in English. The verbs that Ellis looked at were:

verbs that take regular past tense marking, e.g. walk-ed
verbs that have irregular past tense forms, e.g. ran
copula be in the past tense: was/were.

The informants had to do three tasks:

(a) write a narrative based on a picture story, from the prompt `One day ... '
(b) retell the same story orally (i.e. a planned retelling)
(c) tell an oral story based on a different set of pictures without any pre-planning

The percentage suppliance of past-tense-marked verb forms in obligatory contexts in
the narratives produced are displayed in table 1:

Table 1: % of past-marked verbs
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                  Irregular                  Regular                    Copula
Task (a)          60                         77                         76
Task (b)          57                         57                         75
Task (c)          55                         43                         60
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The proportion of suppliance of inflections on regular verbs was significantly
different in all three tasks (on the basis of chi-square tests), there was no significant
difference in the case of irregular verbs, and there was a significant difference in
suppliance of past forms of the copula only between the unplanned oral story telling
task and the other two tasks.

What this shows is that on some linguistic properties the same L2 speakers can
perform very differently depending on the task involved. Krashen's account of such
variability is that in `planned' tasks, where speakers are likely to be concerned about
correctness of form, they use their learned knowledge to monitor the output of
acquired knowledge. Language produced under such conditions is more target-like.
The implication is that the performance of the informants on task (c) is a better
reflection of their interlanguage competence than tasks (a) and (b).

Ellis, R. 1987: Interlanguage variability in narrative discourse: style shifting in the use of the past tense.
Studies in Second Language Acquisition 9, 1-20.

				
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