Linking adult second language learning and diachronic change: a cautionary note

Vera Kempe, Patricia J. Brooks

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    9 Citations (Scopus)
    94 Downloads (Pure)


    It has been suggested that the morphological complexity of a language is negatively correlated with the size of its population of speakers. This relationship may be driven by the proportion of non-native speakers, among other things, and reflects adaptations to learning constraints imposed by adult language learners. Here we sound a note of caution with respect to these claims by arguing that (a) morphological complexity is defined in somewhat contradictory ways and hence not straightforward to measure, and (b) there is insufficient evidence to suggest that children’s cognitive limitations support mechanisms beneficial for learning of complex morphology relative to adults. We suggest that considering the informational value of morphological cues may be a better way to capture learnability of morphology. To settle the issue of how age related constraints on learning might impact language change, more cross-linguistic studies comparing learning trajectories of different second languages and laboratory experiments examining language transmission in children and adults are needed.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number480
    Number of pages5
    JournalFrontiers in Psychology
    Publication statusPublished - 5 Apr 2018


    • Linguistic niche hypothesis
    • First language acquisition
    • Second language learning
    • Inflectional morphology
    • Case marking


    Dive into the research topics of 'Linking adult second language learning and diachronic change: a cautionary note'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this