Dissertation > Language, writing > Linguistics > Language teaching

Fossilization and Stabilization in SLA

Author XuXiaoYan
Tutor LiuRuShan
School Ocean University of China
Course Foreign Linguistics and Applied Linguistics
Keywords Fossilization Stabilization Conscious Unconscious
Type Master's thesis
Year 2005
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As inevitable topics that need to be solved urgently in the study of SLA, language fossilization and language stabilization have been paid much attention to by researchers nowadays.Since Selinker pointed out that it was extremely rare for the learners of an L2 to achieve full native-like competence, and coined the term "fossilization" to refer to this phenomenon - the non-target forms become fixed in the interlanguage, researchers in the field of SLA all over the world have started to study this phenomenon and to summarize its possible causes. Lennerberg (1967) and Lamendella (1977) put forward the theory of internal sources from the physical perspective, considering that fossilization comes into being because of the physical and psychological factors inside the human beings. Schumann (1976) raised the theory of external sources on the basis of social distance and its influence on the learners. Vigil and Oiler (1976) brought forward the theory of interactive sources, discussing how the feedback gained in the course of communicating affects them. Krashen (1985) and Ellis (1994) discussed the possible causes, as well.In our country, Chen Yaping (1997) analyzed fossilization phenomenon among English-major students, regarding it as the "Phenomenon of Grade Two" and attributing fossilization to "the phenomenon of plateau-like period" from the psychological view. Chen Huiyuan (1999) summarized almost all theories from abroad in this field, and pointed out that it was not easy to prove the causes of fossilization because it needed an extremely long time. Zhang Xuemei (2000) unveiled the possible causes of interlanguage fossilization further from the view of skills in the light of cognitive learning models. In addition, many other researchers, such as Huang Zehuo (2000), Pan Xiaojun (2000) and Lin Hong (2002), have made discussion and analysis on this phenomenon.About stabilization phenomenon, there are few works wholly talking about it. But in most of the literatures on fossilization after Selinker, the term of stabilization has been used with the same meaning as that of fossilization, and they are frequently used without any difference.According to the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (1993, p. 1025), "stabilize" means "to be the state of being firm, steady and unchanging". And Selinker (1972) proposed that stabilization should refer to the unchanging state in the process of second language learning, and it should be a natural and temporary stage of "getting stuck". In addition, Tollefson & Firn (1983) created a term "jellification" to correspond "stabilization", pointing out the term "stabilization" was distinct from "fossilization" with different implications. Huang Rukuo (2003) made some analysis on the difference between fossilization and stabilization, and reckoned "permanency" as the most striking feature of fossilization.However, although there exist a number of ideas on its causes, few researchers have tried classifying different fossilization phenomena, except that Niu Qiang (2000) has categorized fossilization into "permanent" and "temporary". But obviously this kind of categorization is totally wrong, because the most striking characteristic of fossilization is its permanency, and Niu Qiang has confused fossilization and stabilization from the first beginning. Another point we need to pay attention to is the term "de-fossilization". Since fossilized linguistic items cannot be eradicated and modified, it is impossible for us to de-fossilize the fossilization phenomenon. However, we can do our best to prevent and cure stabilization phenomenon before it becomes fossilized, which is called "de-stabilization".On the basis of the related information, this paper aims at showing the distinction between fossilization and stabilization through probing into characteristics according to their definitions, and the author also attempts to define these two terms more clearly. In addition to the feature of "permanency", fossilization has another remarkable feature, that is "repetitiveness". And the features of stabilization are "changeability" and "eradicatability" (coined by the author). Therefore, stabilizationis correctable, while fossilization is uncorrectable; stabilization is a temporary stop in SLA, while fossilization is a permanent one; and stabilization is a kind of learning state while fossilization is a kind of learning result. But there also exists a close relationship between them. Stabilization is a necessary and indispensable prelude to fossilization and stabilization can result in fossilization. Stabilization of erroneous forms occurs and fossilization sets in (Schumann, 1978a). Fossilization is more likely to occur under the condition that the learner is not motivated to change radically when he is held up at the stabilization stage. In this way, the errors committed by the language learner will be fossilized if he gets no opportunities for further exposure to the target language.On the basis of the distinction of these two important phenomena, the author attempts to make classify fossilization and stabilization into "conscious" and "unconscious" according to whether the causes are conscious or not.The conscious fossilizations include the one made because of social factors (social distance and cultural shock); the one because of affective factors (motivation, attitudes and personality); and the one because of cognitive styles. The unconscious fossilizations include the one made by linguistic environment, the one made by physical disability, and the one made by age.The conscious stabilizations include the one caused by affective factors (anxiety, lack of risk-taking, sensitivity to rejection, and absent-mindedness); the one caused by learning strategies. While the unconscious stabilizations include the one caused by L1 transfer, and the one caused by language input and output.At the end of this dissertation, the author puts forward some other deficiencies in the studies on fossilization and stabilization, and summarizes the essentials of this thesis. Meanwhile, the author explains why there are no reliable longitudinal experiments from three aspects.

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