Can advanced learners of spanish achieve native-like pronunciation? A re-examination of the critical period for accent


  • Frank A. Morris



English Language, English


What is the foundation for the Critical Period Hypothesis?2 For the last thirty years, researchers have pondered whether learners of a second language can achieve native-like pronunciation. The first attempt at addressing the issue occurred in the early 1960’s. To account for the difficulty that some children had in acquiring a first or second language, the Critical Period Hypothesis was proposed (Penfield and Roberts, 1959; Lenneberg, 1967). It was postulated that there is a neurological based critical period, which ends at the onset of puberty. But after the critical period, mastery of a first or second language is no longer possible (Lenneberg, 1967). The cause for the lack of language attainment is attributed to a loss of neural plasticity. As the brain ages, it loses its "plasticity", and thus, its ability to learn languages. It was suggested that language learners who started to acquire a second language before the close of the critical period could achieve nativelike levels, but those who began to learn languages after the end of the critical period would not.