Language Proficiency in Native and Non-native Speakers
Theory and research
Jan H. Hulstijn | University of Amsterdam
This book, written for both seasoned and novice researchers, presents a theory of what is called Basic and Higher Language Cognition (BLC and HLC), a theory aimed at making some fundamental issues concerning first and second language learning and bilingualism (more) empirical. The first part of the book provides background for and explication of the theory as well as an agenda for future research, while the second part reports on selected studies of language proficiency in native speakers, as well as non-native speakers, and studies of the relationship between literacy in a first and second language. Conceptual and methodological problems in measuring language proficiency in research on second language acquisition and bilingualism are also discussed. Further, the notion of levels of language proficiency, as rendered by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), is critically examined, suggesting ways of empirically investigating a number of questions that the CEFR raises but is not capable of answering.
[Language Learning & Language Teaching, 41] 2015. xi, 195 pp.
Publishing status: Available
© John Benjamins
Table of Contents
Foreword | pp. ix–xi
Part I. Theory
Chapter 1. Scientific inquiry | pp. 3–10
Chapter 2. Language acquisition and the need for a theory of language proficiency | pp. 11–18
Chapter 3. BLC-HLC Theory: Language proficiency in native speakers | pp. 19–36
Chapter 4. BLC-HLC Theory: Language proficiency in non-native speakers | pp. 37–50
Chapter 5. BLC-HLC Theory: Summary and discussion of Part One | pp. 51–56
Part II. Research
Chapter 6. Language proficiency of native speakers: Commonalities and differences | pp. 59–80
Chapter 7. Components of language proficiency | pp. 81–114
Chapter 8. Interdependence of L1 and L2 literacy | pp. 115–132
Chapter 9. Measuring language proficiency in research on L2 acquisition and bilingualism | pp. 133–141
Chapter 10. Levels of language proficiency in scales of educational assessment | pp. 143–155
Epilogue | pp. 157–158
Appendix 1 | pp. 181–186
Person index | pp. 187–190
Subject index | pp. 191–195
“This book by an eminent applied linguist and scholar intends to encourage a dialogue about the nature of first, second and foreign language proficiency. I strongly recommend it to anybody interested in the similarities and differences between a native and a so-called non-native command of language, in how such command develops, how it is acquired, learned and used. It is not a textbook nor is it a balanced review of the literature. It is avowedly not neutral. Rather it expresses the author’s personal, biased views on the topic. That is not a criticism of the volume, far from it: it is deliberately provocative. Indeed, even the use and meaning of the term “non-native” is controversial and vague. As a consequence, the reader is challenged to decide what their own position is on the issues and positions discussed. This is a must-have book for applied linguists, second language researchers and assessors, indeed for anybody interested in empirical research into language teaching and assessment. Let the debate begin!”
Charles Alderson, Lancaster University
“Readers will find in this book a fascinating journey through age (and critical periods), usage (and Zipfian distributions), individual differences (and literate and multiregister language repertoires), and nativeness (and bilingualism). Hulstijn’s seminal, original theory of language proficiency opens up tantalizing new insights into most Trojan horses of contemporary language acquisition research!”
Lourdes Ortega, Georgetown University
“This book provides an excellent introduction to the topic of language proficiency and some of the recent work that has been done to attempt to measure it. It is sure to be useful to both beginning and experienced students or researchers in linguistics, and especially those who are looking for alternative ways to measure proficiency that do not ignore the concept of native language proficiency when thinking about non-native users.”
Steven L. Alcorn, University of Texas at Austin, on Linguist List 26.4639, 2015
“Even though the topic areas are intricate and complex, it is difficult for readers to feel lost or academically misguided, because Hulstijn is very good at presenting facts and theory, summarising empirical studies, and putting forward methodological and conceptual problems, keeping the reader consistently on the track of his argument. He manages to present different approaches in an explanatory manner and bring them together in a conciliatory way that minimises confusion. The book should be considered as a seminal work for the presentation and analysis of complex phenomena such as language proficiency. Hulstijn, with his high academic style, has managed to present all the facets of a complicated linguistic phenomenon in a way that invites sober and well-rounded academic debate.”
Argyro Kanaki, University of Dundee, in BAAL News 111: 26-27, Summer 2017
“The book provides an excellent introduction to a theory of language proficiency. The concepts of BLC [Basic Language Cognition] and HLC [Higher Language Cognition] discussed extensively in this book are accessible to teachers and non-academics, as well as graduate students and researchers. Although the BLC-HLC is well thought out and grounded in the author’s own research, he humbly accepts that it is not the endpoint of the theory, stating, “I hope that empirical research will bring about an early ‘expiration date’ of BLC-HLC Theory” (p. 158). On the whole, the book reads well with a comprehensive overview of the theories, definitions of key concepts, detailed explanations of the related models, and comparisons with earlier models. The author is very thorough in the description of his own theory, clarifying the differences from the earlier models proposed by other researchers and his own models that are based on his earlier work. In other words, he clearly positions the BLC-HLC theory in the current theoretical discussions on language acquisition. His careful attempt to guide the reader through the chapters toward his own theory indicates his scholarship, which he has devoted to the enquiry of unveiling native and non-native proficiency for many years.”
Noriko Iwashita, University of Queensland, in Language Testing 2017 doi: 10.1177/026553221770468
“The most noteworthy contribution of this book is that it provides a new perspective on language proficiency for L1 acquisition, L2 acquisition, and bilingualism. As the author notes, the BLC-HLC [Basic Language Cognition-Higher Language Cognition] theory does not aim to serve as a fixed theory for language proficiency, but as a hermeneutic and strategic tool which can be falsified to increase the researchers' insight into the fundamental issues of language acquisition. At the same time, in line with Popper's (1959) view of critical rationalism, the book not only focuses on theoretical issues, but also endeavours to examine and address the issues with the proposed theory. One example of this is the critical examination of the CEFR [Common European Framework of Reference for Languages] levels of language proficiency and the attempt to investigate the issue with the BLC-HLC theory in Chapter 10. In addition, the book provides not only a systematic review of conceptual/theoretical issues on language proficiency, but critical reviews of methodological issues concerning empirical research in the area. Based on the reviews, it also gives suggestions for future research on various topics regarding language proficiency. In these terms, the book may serve both as an introductory book to researchers new to the area and as a reference to veteran researchers in the area.”
Ying Zhang, Lei Lei, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, in System 56: 140-152, 2016
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