The L2 acquisition of a phonological variable: the case of /l/deletion in French
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This article is situated within the recent strand of SLA research which applies variationist sociolinguistic methods to the study of the acquisition of sociolinguistic variation by the L2 speaker. Whilst that research has tended to focus on the study of morphological and morphosyntactic variables, this article aims to investigate a number of acquisitional trends identified in previous research in relation to phonological variation, namely the variable deletion of /l/ by Irish advanced L2 speakers of French in both an instructed and study abroad environment. Based on quantitative results using GoldVarb 2001, the study further illuminates the difficulty that the acquisition of sociolinguistic variation poses to the instructed L2 speaker, who is found to make minimal use of informal sociolinguistic variants. In contrast, contact with native speakers in the native speech community is seen to allow the L2 speaker to make considerable sociolinguistic gains, not only in relation to the acquisition of the informal variant in itself, but also in relation to the underlying native speaker grammatical system as indicated by the constraint ordering at work behind use of the variable.