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Reviewed by:
  • Second dialect acquisition
  • Karim Sadeghi
Jeff Siegel. 2010. Second dialect acquisition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pp. xii + 277. US $99.00 (hardcover).

Second Dialect Acquisition is perhaps the first book entirely devoted to this topic, as the author observes (pp. 21, 235). While much research and published work exist on second language acquisition (SLA), there is in principle none (or at least no widely disseminated literature) in the closely linked but much less understood phenomenon of Second Dialect Acquisition (SDA), which is “a special type of SLA — when the relationship between the L1 and the L2 is close enough for them to be considered by their speakers to be varieties of the same language” (p. 1). That is why Siegel’s book may be regarded as an original contribution to the field of applied linguistics in general and second language acquisition in particular. The book comprises nine [End Page 480] chapters, with explanatory end notes, an elaborate list of references, and a subject index. One very distinctive feature of the book is that it backs up most of its discussions and claims with appropriate empirical evidence. What follows is a brief overview of the content of each chapter, mentioning their respective merits and demerits and suggestions for improvement where relevant.

In the first chapter, “Introduction”, the author introduces the scope of the book and distinguishes between learning a new language and learning a new dialect, which is the major focus of the book. As the author claims, the book is not only intended for linguists but also for a general readership, and in order to make the content of the book accessible to the latter group, the chapter also provides basic information on such concepts as dialectal differences (in terms of vocabulary, grammar, pragmatics, and pronunciation), speech sounds, and variation in language. It would have been ideal if the author had chosen to provide definitions for such technical terms as “pidgin”, “creole”, “lexifier” (p. 6) and “basilectal” (p. 24); instead, he opts for describing much simpler terms such as “yes–no questions” (p. 10). Furthermore, several abbreviations are spelled out in long form well after their initial occurrence; for example, NAE (North American English) and BrE (British English) are only spelled out on p. 19 though repeatedly used on previous pages. The chapter displays a rich texture in the discussion of the issues, and in particular the distinction drawn between dialect and language, by referring to different scholars’ (at times opposing) views.

Chapters 2 to 6 focus on SDA in naturalistic contexts while chapters 7 through 9 concentrate on SDA in educational contexts. In chapter 2, “Attainment in naturalistic SDA”, how attainment/acquisition of a second dialect (D2) can be measured, and the use of D2 features in different dialects of English and other European languages as well as in Japanese, Brazilian Portuguese, and Sui (spoken in southwest China, with no writing system) are discussed at some length. The seventeen studies reviewed bring the author to the overall conclusion that as far as naturalistic settings are concerned, “the subjects did not have much success in acquiring a second dialect” (p. 51). Towards the end of the chapter, three studies of dialect shift or loss and methodological issues in SDA research are covered in appropriate detail.

Chapter 3, “Acquiring a second dialect”, examines key issues involved in SDA such as linguistic perceptions of dialect acquirers and the problems associated with switching from one dialect to another. The chapter also surveys various approaches used to study naturalistic SDA and the methodology employed to explore this field, including accommodation theory, acquisitional approach, and imitation as well as how different dialects are represented and processed in the mind. The chapter explores the reasons for “non-nativeness” or “double foreignness” of D2 acquirers by raising issues such as replacive (subtractive) versus additive SDA. While the chapter brings numerous examples of studies looking at pronunciation differences between D1 and D2, there are no studies concerning lexical, grammatical, and pragmatic or cultural differences between D1 and D2.

Chapters 4 and 5 discuss individual and linguistic variables affecting SDA. The chapters focus on nonlinguistic variables or social/affective/individual/independent/external factors such as the age...


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pp. 480-483
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