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date: 28 February 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter asks to what degree syntax and phonology appear to be impervious to second language (L2) attrition and examine the related question of whether there is a critical period for either acquisition or attrition in these domains. Previous research has indicated a critical juncture in development at around 8 to 10 years old, after which target-like L2 acquisition is no longer guaranteed, and before which dramatic reduction in input may lead to apparent global loss of any early-acquired (L1) languages. A comparative review of research in L1 and L2 acquisition and attrition reveals remarkable resilience for aspects of phonology not subject to cross-linguistic influence, but paints a more complicated picture for syntax, which is difficult to investigate independently of lexical retrieval and working memory constraints. The chapter suggests an alternative conceptualization of the critical period in terms of network stabilization of the mental lexicon.

Keywords: critical period, mental lexicon, phonology, second language attrition, syntax

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