The Critical Period Hypothesis: Support, Challenge, and Reconceptualization

Schouten, Andy

Given the general failure experienced by adults when attempting to learn a second or foreign language, many have hypothesized that a critical period exists for the domain of language learning. Supporters of the Critical Period Hypothesis (CPH) contend that language learning, which takes place outside of this critical period (roughly defined as ending sometime around puberty), will inevitably be marked by non-native like features. In opposition to this position, several researches have postulated that, although rare, nativelike proficiency in a second language is in fact possible for adult learners. Still others, in light of the robust debate and research both supporting and challenging the CPH, have reconceptualized their views regarding a possible critical period for language learning, claiming that in combination with age of exposure, sociological, psychological, and physiological factors must also be considered when determining the factors that facilitate and debilitate language acquisition. In this paper, a review of literature describing the support, challenges, and reconceptualizations of the CPH is provided.


Also Published In

Working Papers in TESOL & Applied Linguistics

More About This Work

Academic Units
Applied Linguistics and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
Published Here
November 4, 2015