13 May 2013

Implication of IL Fossilization in Second Language Acquisition

Implication of IL Fossilization in Second Language Acquisition

Since the phenomenon of fossilization in intelanguage is proposed bySelinker in 1972, it has drawn much attention and commonly acknowledged at home and abroad. This paper introduces the definition, classification, presentation, and causal factors of fossilization in an attempt to help Chinese students better understand the phenomenon and avoid its influence by the proposal of some suggestions.

Keywords: Fossilization, Interlanguage (IL), Target Language (TL), Second Language Acquisition (SLA)

Notion of Fossilization 
Selinker first put forwarded the notion of fossilization in the paper Interlanuage in 1972. He noted that 95% of L2 learners failed to reach the same level of L1 competence from his observation. This kind of phenomenon is defined by Selinder (1972) as fossilization. Fossilization, a mechanism…underlies surface linguistic material which speakers will tend to keep in their IL productive performance, no matter what the age of the learner or the amount of instruction he receives in the TL.

Selinker and Lamendella (1978) redefined fossilization as a permanent cessation of IL learning before the learner has attained TL norms at all levels of linguistic structure and inall discourse domains in spite of the learner’s positive ability, opportunity, and motivation to learn and acculturate into target society.

The notion of fossilization has been interpreted differently by different scholars since it was proposed. For instance, there are terms like backsliding, stabilized errors, learning plateau, typical error, persistent non-target-like performance, de-acceleration of the learning process, ingrained errors, systematic use of erroneous forms, cessation of learning, structural persistence, ultimate attainment, long-lasting free variation, persistent difficulty, and inability to fully master target language features describing the similar meaning, which lead to confusion for quite a long time.

This paper is also based on some commonly accepted concept about fossilization. (1) it may appear at different language levels; (2) it may occur at different learning stages among age groups; (3) it may be either structure fossilization or competence fossilization; (4) it is usually manifested as the deviant forms from the TL norms; (5) there are soft and hard degrees of fossilization.

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