At the time of writing this sentence, I have submitted dozens abstracts to conferences and got on average two reviews for each of those abstracts. Some of the abstracts were accepted, and some were not. Some of the abstracts got uniformly favorable reviews, some got uniformly unfavorable ones, and some got contradictory ones. I think some of the contradictions are rather instructive, and some are just funny.
L3 Workshop (do read the fourth)
- Review 1 (3 - strong accept): In light of the proliferation of L3 models, this paper would serve as a nice reminder to L3 researchers (even those outside of the generative paradigm) that although scientific models don’t need to be explanatory, explanatory adequacy is a goal of the science itself. I think such a presentation would leave us with more questions than answers, but this is probably a good thing given the current state of the field. One question I’d like to see addressed is the relationship between multilingualism (L3+), bilingualism, and monolingualism. Much of the linguistic/acquisition research has examined monolingual acquisition and knowledge and various cases of simultaneous or sequential bilingualism. How much of what we think we know from this body of research should serve as foundations/assumptions for multilingual research? If it turns out that multilingualism is really the general case and bi-/monolingualism are specific cases, how should we revise our understanding of bi-/monolingualism to fit a more general theory of multilingualism?
- Review 1 (2 - accept): The abstract makes sensible points, and is suggesting to tackle vague definitions of key concepts which, I agree, the field has traditionally upheld without much desire to commit to a formal definition. This is a good, necessary discussion to be had, so I would have it as a talk and hope that the Q&A provides a lively session.
- Review 1 (1 - weak accept): The abstracts challenges the field of TLA and how models have been put forward to date. This is indeed very welcome and much needed in light of the recent proposals the field has had, which do not meet the requirements for a model of L3A. I also agree that the notion of transfer has been misused and has not been operationalized to date. However, I would disagree with the idea that there is no single study or paper where this has been discussed. I recommend the author looks at Rothman’s work quite closely because he is very clear as to what he means in his operationalization of transfer (his early work is based on Schwartz and Sprouse, 1996). One might disagree with such operationalization, but that does not imply it is not defined. The presentation is welcome and hopefully we will see it in the workshop as it will surely spark a lot of debate. I am not sure the abstract itself merits an oral presentation.
- Review 1 (-1 - weak accept): This abstracts takes a very specific position of assumed authority that is a tenuous one in the real world of acquisition and processing, as opposed to where it might be (and I do not think completely) within a context of pure theory for the sake of theory. First, there is an assumption that there is the potential now–as opposed to at some point in the, likely distant, future–for there being one overall explanatory theory for multilingualism. Seemingly, this author has unlocked the secrets that have been illusive to those of us doing the empirical work for two decades and will enlighten us. Worse, the inherent assumption is that any such theory would have to be a generative and thus be subject to how theory is conceptually framed in that particular framework. This is a problematic position a priori, I might imagine even for those scholars that proudly consider themselves generative acquisitionists. Given the point of departure of how this is framed, from a position where the author seems to believe they know the entire lay of the land in the real world of L3 theory and practice (actual research), it is a mute point to rebut virtually all macro-claims that are made: e.g. that existing theories do not specify or fully understand what constitutes a proper theory and its testing. And so, I will not waste my time doing so or the author’s time in having to read this as it is already clear they will not digest it properly. We can all agree that theory is important, an over-aching framework and theory of language to specific ones related to multilingualism specifically (and their compatibility as well as mutual informativity). That said, it is not the case that there is nothing to be made of some of the points raised in the abstract. And so, I would invite the author to consider real world implications–theories are great but for acquisition and processing they must be amendable to empiricism–in the next iteration and present their ideas in a way that is not dismissive of 20 years of work of an entire field. Finally, I might recommend that the writing be a bit less formal. I am a native speaker of English myself, and some words are of such low frequency that even I find it distracting and unnecessarily trying to be more formal than needed.
Chicago Linguistics Society 58
- Review 1 (-2 – reject): This is a conceptual yet superficial proposal. The three ingredients of the authors’ TMA are phrased very generally without specific reference to issues in multilingual acquisition. These are briefly touched on at the very end, but only negatively, so that it is not clear why existing approaches should fall short of the authors’ stipulated requirements.
- Review 3 (2 – accept): This paper provides three requirements for a generative theory of multilingual acquisition. All are explained clearly with sound reasoning. A comprehensive overview of existing theories in regards to the requirements laid out in the paper sounds particularly interesting and beneficial to the field.
- Review 1 (I assume accept): The proposal is well grounded, and the hypothesis clearly stated. The study is well described providing information about the participants, the task and how the data analysis has been conducted. The outline of the results (including points for further work) is clearly conveyed. Although this is not my area of expertise, I consider it a very interesting and very well formulated proposal.
- Review 2 (I assume reject): While the topic discussed in this paper is important for theories of L3 and L4 acquisition, it is not clear to this reviewer that the paper would be appropriate at a conference like LSRL. The connection to Romance grammar is tenuous at best - the details of how negative disjunctions are expressed and interpreted in French are barely mentioned in the abstract (there is no actual French data). The sample test sentence that was supposedly evaluated in French is given in English (not sure why). I think readers of the abstract could also benefit from a clearer contextual explanation of what the participants are evaluating as true or false. I’m not sure why this information is not included in the abstract when it is essential for understanding what the participants are evaluating. I cannot understand what true/false for (1e) actually means without a context. Moreover, a clearer explanation of what is expected if transfer from L1/L2 vs. transfer from L3 happens would be welcomed. None of this is included in the description of the experiment. Finally, I am skeptical about how much the L4 French learners actually understand how to use negative disjunction in French. It is a difficult judgment to get in one’s native language let alone an L4 and it is something that is probably not taught explicitly and relatively rare in the input that an L4 learner would have, and scores on proficiency test might not be the best indicators of this. One of the results is that the L4 learners behave in a less target-like way as they are more advanced. I wonder if there are other studies on these kinds of semantic judgments and how their difficulty might play a role in accounting for these unexpected results. For these reasons it would probably be better received at a general language acquisition conference. I think the results of the study are interesting and I urge the author(s) to submit this to a language acquisition conference that is not language-specific and be more clear in the abstract about how the contextual information that participants had in assessing truth values.
Penn Linguistics Society
- Review 1 (3 – strong accept): I find this topic fascinating and the abstract compelling. The submitter nicely lays out the case of three enticing situations in which people beyond the critical age came to acquire a non-native language to a considerable extent. As the submitter intimates, the information gleaned from cases such as these should not be jettisoned, but should be incorporated into the strengthening of theories.
- Review 2 (-2 – reject): The author begins with the claim that “anecdotal data and case studies have been repeatedly shunned from language acquisition inquiry.” This is simply not true. A cursory google scholar search on the terms [“second language acquisition” “case study”] provides more than 50,000 results. […] I have grave concerns, however, about the quality of the observational data that this author brings to bear, and hence of the validity of the evidence in the theoretical claim. […] Finally, it is unclear to me whether the central theses of this piece are intended to be around an epistemology of science (regarding the use of case study evidence) or intended to be around particular SLA hypotheses (the critical period, the fundamental difference hypothesis). With regard to the latter, I’ll also add that I don’t believe that SLA researchers intend that these hypotheses apply without exception to all learners – rather that they are explanations of the linguistic patterns of most typical learners.
- Review 3 (2 – accept): This paper presents a new set of anecdotal evidence on second language acquisition not previously discussed in literature. Though projecting an argument based on a small number of anecdotal cases might seem deviant from modern research practices that adopt a systematic experiment or a large amount of corpus data, the author’s argument is based on well-informed theories so it is worth being heard.