A connectionist model of second language acquisition

Thomas Anthony Keenan, University of Pennsylvania


One of the great needs in the field or second language acquisition (SLA) is a comprehensive theory which will relate linguistic, psychological and neurocognitive observations about language and language acquisition. Without an overarching framework, any number of specialized theories may be developed which work well enough in their own area, but paint a false picture of what is actually happening in the human language system. After briefly discussing relevant neuroanatomy, reviewing select psycholinguistic findings, and surveying the essential tenants of Connectionism/Parallel Distributed Processing, this dissertation proposes a comprehensive model of SLA in a connectionist framework. The model divides language processing along two axes of neurological processing (language specialized versus non-language specialized, and automated versus non-automated) and is formalized into seven neuropsycholinguistic postulates. The model is then compared to existing theories and models of SLA. Finally, a pilot case study of second language lexical acquisition in (written) first and second language contexts is described and its results discussed in light of the connectionist model developed.

Subject Area

Language arts|Linguistics|Educational psychology

Recommended Citation

Keenan, Thomas Anthony, "A connectionist model of second language acquisition" (1993). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9331797.