The relationship between the group and the individual and the acquisition of native speaker variation patterns: a preliminary study
The relationship between group and individual has been explored within the variationist paradigm. In L1, group patterns of variation are replicated by the individual. Second language acquisition research is concerned with the individual learner, but second language acquisition variationist researchers tend to group learners. Little empirical evidence exists that such grouping is valid, given the importance of individual variation. This article investigates whether it is meaningful to group learners. This is a longitudinal, quantitative study of the acquisition of variation by Irish speakers of French L2 over three years, of which one is a year abroad experience. Participants are five advanced learners, twenty years old, with five years of French classes at secondary school and two at university. A computer (Varbrul) analysis shows similar patterns in group and individual, in the deletion of ne. Theoretical implications are that it is legitimate to apply group standards to individual speakers and that native speaker variation acquisition is linked to a prolonged stay in the native speaker community.