Second-language instinct and instruction effects: Nature and nurture in second-language acquisition

Noriaki Yusa, Masatoshi Koizumi, Jungho Kim, Naoki Kimura, Shinya Uchida, Satoru Yokoyama, Naoki Miura, Ryuta Kawashima, Hiroko Hagiwara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Adults seem to have greater difficulties than children in acquiring a second language (L2) because of the alleged "window of opportunity" around puberty. Postpuberty Japanese participants learned a new English rule with simplex sentences during one month of instruction, and then they were tested on "uninstructed complex sentences" as well as "instructed simplex sentences." The behavioral data show that they can acquire more knowledge than is instructed, suggesting the interweaving of nature (universal principles of grammar, UG) and nurture (instruction) in L2 acquisition. The comparison in the "uninstructed complex sentences" between post-instruction and pre-instruction using functional magnetic resonance imaging reveals a significant activation in Broca's area. Thus, this study provides new insight into Broca's area, where nature and nurture cooperate to produce L2 learners' rich linguistic knowledge. It also shows neural plasticity of adult L2 acquisition, arguing against a critical period hypothesis, at least in the domain of UG.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2716-2730
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2011 Oct

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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