Language, Literacy, and Sociocultural Studies ETDs

Publication Date

Summer 7-27-1973


Language learning is both culture-bound and individual-skill-bound, structured on an innate, biological capacity to acquire language. While it is a remarkable phenomenon when it occurs in the acquisition of a first language, it is even more remarkable in the acquisition of a second language where the main objective concerning competence is to bring the two languages into equilibrium. This equilibrium does not result in a final co-ordinate bilingual, which is only an abstract ideal. It is, rather, the complex bilingualism - the only bilingualism it is possible to demonstrate - and the equilibrium is judged on the needs and purposes of the languages concerned and may not be at the same levels as each other. There is interference in learning a second language, but while contrasts may be useful for planning teaching strategies, the learning aspect has to be directed making full use of the first language which has already been learned, focusing heavily on similarities - considering the Universals of language and the increasing trend towards the universals of thought.

The experiment was conducted on a group of twenty nine-year-olds and twenty ten-year-olds to discover the process of second language acquisition when the terminal product is a monolingual (?) in the second language i.e., the student would pass through the phases of bilingualism when he was a complex bilingual with the first language dominant, an unidentifiable but certain phase when he was a co-ordinate bilingual and finally a complex bilingual with the second language dominant. Thus the student is still a complex bilingual but with the second language dominant since the program was aimed at the hypothetical second language monolingual. Consequently the program was structured in a manner suited to such a terminal product.

The four modes used for eliciting responses were as follows:

l. Navajo Input - Navajo Questions (NN)

2. Navajo Input - English Questions (NE)

3. English Input - Navajo Questions (EN)

4. English Input - English Questions (EE)

With the nine-year-olds the hypotheses were confirmed - that the order of accuracy in the responses would take the following sequence:

NN - EE - NE - EN. Among the ten-year-olds the relative positions of NN-1':E and the relative positions of EN-NE were confirmed, but the over­all sequence of the responses in the four modes was not confirmed.

The sequence was as follows: EN - NN - EE - NE.

The explanations and discussions were based on the "Language of Confidence" (Navajo) and the "Language of Survival" (English) with memory playing a decisive part.

Considering all the factors involved, the recommendation made in towards a greater emphasis on vocabulary rather than syntax - for this, in the opinion of the author, would be the most efficient and economic, if the terminal product is to be the second language dominant bilingual.

Document Type


Level of Degree


First Committee Member (Chair)

Bernard Spolsky

Second Committee Member

Rodney Young

Third Committee Member

Garland Bills

Fourth Committee Member

Vera John-Steiner