Abstract: Special issue of Studies on Second Language Acquisition

TOMLIN, R. S., & GERNSBACHER, M. A., (1994). (Eds.) Special issue of Studies on Second Language Acquisition: Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.

The growth of cognitive science as a field, or at least as a descriptive term, indicates an emerging scientific consensus that many fundamental human capacities require collaborative and interdisciplinary research to make further fundamental headway. Language, as central to our essential humanity as anything is, represents one area in which massive amounts of interdisciplinary research is underway at virtually every research institution in the world. It strikes us, then, how comparatively little interdisciplinary research there is within cognitive science about second language acquisition (SLA). There is, of course, a great deal of research within SLA itself that draws upon research in cognition and that extends those ideas in important and interesting ways into both SLA and second language instruction (SLI). Yet SLA has never really taken a particularly prominent place within cognitive science overall. Even a brief glance at recent proceedings of the Cognitive Science Society reveals comparatively little effort directed at SLA. The irony is doubled when one considers that SLA has as a discipline properly taken pride in its multidisciplinary roots. It combines ideas and research strategies from linguistics, sociology, anthropology, education, psychology, and even biology as it examines the myriad difficulties of describing and explaining how individuals fail and succeed in learning additional languages. In the winter of 1992, a symposium was held at the University of Oregon in Eugene on the topic of cognition, SLA, and SLI. The symposium was sponsored principally by a grant from the Keck Foundation, which supported a general program in cognition and instruction in the University of Oregon Institute for Cognitive and Decision Sciences. The purpose of this meeting was to assemble researchers in the three related areas of cognition, SLA, and SLI to try to identify and define research questions that cut across the three areas. Approximately 30 participants from around the world and representing varied theoretical approaches to SLA worked together for 3 days looking for points of contact among their various perspectives on SLA, SLI, and cognition. The present issue is one product of that event. The contributions in this issue span a continuum from those whose bases are principally within SLA but tied to issues of cognition to those that are largely grounded in the more general cognitive literature but tied to issues of importance in SLA. Andersen and Shire examine the relationship between child language acquisition and SLA of tense-aspect distinctions. They argue that there are several fundamental cognitive principles underlying the pattern of acquisition seen in the data: the Relevance Principle, the One to One Principle, and the Principle of Congruence. They argue further that these principles are not peculiar to acquisition per se but are in fact principles that govern ordinary native speaker discourse interaction.