second language acquisition
Instructions: Be sure to read this document in its entirety before you submit your test answers. You are
to complete this take-home test using your favorite word processor. In the online format it is doubly, no
even triply, important to read and follow instructions carefully. And remember: This is a test. The
UH-Downtown Academic Honesty policy forbids collaboration on tests.
How to complete this test
(1) Download this file to your hard drive.
(2) Launch your word processing application and create a new document.
(3) Put your name, the name of this submission, and the name of this course at the top of this
(4) Write your answers to the test items, being sure to properly number them.
(5) Save the document on your hard drive. Be sure to name your document according to the file
naming conventions spelled out below.
Naming the file you submit
When you go to save the answers to the test, name your document as follows. Use your last
name, followed by first name, followed by the number 1, which stands for “Test 1.” For
example, if your name is Joe Biden, save your document as bidenJoe1. Do not use upper case
characters, underscores, blank spaces, symbols, or anything at all except the characters in your
name, followed by the numeral 1.
Acceptable and unacceptable file formats
You may save your document in .doc, .docx, .swx, .sdw, .rtf, or .odt format. WordPerfect
(.wps) and MS WORKS formats are not acceptable. If you are a WordPerfect user, or if you
do not have word processing software, go to www.openoffice.org, where you can download a
quality office suite for free.
page 1 of 4
Formatting your submission
Make sure that your name, the name of the submission, and the name of this course appear at
the top of the document you submit. Do not use headers in your document. The top of the
document you submit should look like this:
Submitting your documents
You must submit your completed test using the “Dropbox” tool that you see when you first
enter our web site.
(1) Click on the Dropbox folder on our home page.
(2) Click on the folder corresponding to this submission.
(3) Upload the file with your completed test.
This test is due Monday morning, July 25, 2011, no later than 8:00 am CST.
I will deduct points from the test for failure to comply with the above instructions.
page 2 of 4
PART I: Short answer (five points each, 50%).
Write a short, one or two word phrase identifying each of the following.
1. What term is generally used to refer to a language that is acquired after one has become fluent in a
2. What do you call the theory of grammar that defines all possible utterances of a language by means
of a finite set of words and a finite set of rules that allow speakers to combine those words into
3. What is the term for that theory of psychology which claims that our present cognitive abilities are
the result of many thousands of years of evolution, and that we are therefore biologically adapted to
acquire and speak languages?
4. Can you name at least one “Stone Age language” cited in The Language Instinct?
5. What term does your text use for simplified speech used when two groups who do not share a
common native language have to communicate?
6. According to Pinker, what is the appropriate term for cases in which a language evolves when
children make (5) their native language?
7. What do you call the 1950’s era theory of psychology that theory of psychology that attempted to
account for all types of learning in terms of stimulus/response.
8. What term is used to refer to a formal theory of grammar that specifies the set of rules and principles
that defines the set of possible human languages?
9. What is the name of the American linguist most responsible for developing the theory of (8)?
10. What do you call a string of words that has a grammatical structure to it?
PART II: Medium-length answer (5 points each, 25%)
Write a short, one or two sentence response to each question. Do not write anything that is not a
11. Why does Steven Pinker say that is is false that children learn to talk from role models and
12. What is a ‘displaced constituent?’ Give a grammatically correct example, please.
13. What is SLI?
14. What proof does Pinker offer that language ability is distinct from general intelligence?
15. What evidence can you cite to show that children are more adept at language acquisition than
page 3 of 4
PART III: Essay question (25%)
In your own words, respond to the following questions:
What does it mean to say that language is an instinct? What evidence*
from your readings
might lead you to this conclusion, and why is it such an important concept in the study of
second language acquisition?
Your answer should be a minimum of 250 words in length. Remember: this is an essay question. Your
answer should incorporate good sentence and paragraph structure, and should have a beginning, a
middle, and an end. Proofread and edit your response carefully before submitting your test.