Natural Phonology and Second Language Acquisition
Problems and Consequences
This paper looks at whether Natural Phonology can be directly applied to second language acquisition. First, the original theory, as presented by Stampe and Donegan in the 1970s, is outlined. Secondly, its application to first language acquisition is presented, as this is highly crucial for the following discussion on the naturalness of second language phonology. Thirdly, an attempt is made to establish a preliminary model of the application to second language speech.
Findings indicate that Natural Phonology is able to, if not resolve, then at least shed some light on a controversial issue in second language research, namely the distinction between interference and development. With the dichotomy of processes vs. rules offered by Natural Phonology, and hence the interpretation of deviations in second language research as the result of failure of suppression and limitation of processes (instead of as the result of interference from LI phonological rules), the interference/ development distinction collapses. In addition, a principle of closest phonetic value' is postulated in order to explain substitutional variation across learners with differing LI backgrounds.
Although highly promising, application of Natural Phonology to second language issues also raises inherent problems in the original theory that need to be resolved. Instead of the notions of innateness and latency of processes proposed by Stampean Natural Phonology, in this paper, suggestions are made concerning the brain's early programming of processes in the form of a model which covers both first and second language acquisition.