"Young age" in L2 acquisition: The age issue in reverse in phonology

It is suggested that in order to understand L2 phonological acquisition as an integral part of the structure and functioning of sound systems it is necessary to complement the traditional approach to the age issue by including young learners to determine when and how the various phonological mechanisms become operative. This paper first deplores the lack of appropriate empirical data for children aged 4;0-5;0 and younger. Then attention is drawn to bilingual preschools for 3 year-olds to provide for such subjects. Next is a summary on a pilot survey of L2 phonological acquisition with such children in order to illustrate which issues can be raised with them. They instance, basically, the same kind of developmental structures, including transfer, as found with older learners suggesting that the phonological mechanisms, such as equivalence classification, perceptual constancy, perceptuo-motor links, and transfer, are fully in place by age 3;0. One conclusion, therefore, is that younger age ranges need to be looked at in order to understand the ontogeny of the functioning of sound systems.