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The Selective Fossilization Hypothesis: A Revitalization of the Construct of Markedness in Second Language Acquisition

Finneran, Rosette Bambino

With the Selective Fossilization Hypothesis (SFH), Han (2009) cites the synergy of first language (L1) markedness and second language (L2) input robustness as a determinant of selective fossilization and, in doing so, returns the construct of markedness to the forefront of second language acquisition (SLA) research and theory. With the SFH, Han offers a principled account of the differential consequences for L2 learning (Han, 2008, p. 6), and its explanatory and predictive qualities hold great promise for the field. Nevertheless, Han’s unique approach to markedness lays open the possibility for misunderstanding, particularly for those who are accustomed to viewing markedness in SLA through the lens of linguistic universals. Moreover, when one considers that markedness has long been a problematic term in linguistics, with “many different approaches defin[ing] markedness in different ways, apply[ing] it to different domains, and integrat[ing] it into different approaches” (Battistella, 1990, p. 5), the possibility for misunderstanding looms even larger. For these reasons, it might be helpful to take a retrospective look at markedness for the purposes of contextualizing the construct and preempting any potential misapprehensions of its role in the SFH.

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Working Papers in Applied Linguistics & TESOL

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