(Untitled)—James D. McCawley Son of Lingua Pranca Contents The Great Yale Autodescriptives List—Michael A. Covington

A Neurolinguistic Analysis of Sex and Second Language Learning: A Note

Loraine Obler

In this note I build a comprehensive neurolinguistic model of second language acquisition which will explain some of the phenomena of second language acquisition which Lenneberg’s Critical Age Hypothesis left unaccounted for. The reason I get to use the racy term “neurolinguistic” to draw your attention in the title is because I am using a typical neuropsychological methodology, the case study, to support my argument that it is not puberty but defloration which prevents learning a second language with a good accent.

Puberty as critical age explains most cases, but it is hard to work in the discipline of bilingualism long without noting that there are exceptions to the rule that pre-pubertal L2 learners will achieve native-like accents, while post-pubertal L2 learners will not. Two sorts of exceptions exist. The first group is comprised of those pre-pubertal learners such as Henry Kissinger who were exposed to their second language before the age at which they should have achieved puberty, and in addition derived no reasonable social benefit from maintaining the accent of their first language, yet who spoke English with that accent nevertheless. The second group is those 2% of adults who are written off by second language theorists as not counting, who acquire a second language and speak it without accent discernible to the linguist.

In the study to be reported on here, we located a learner of the first sort, and discovered that he had engaged in sex at the precocious age of 10, in fact on board the ship which brought him to America, AT, on this our argument hinges, precisely the same time he was obliged to learn English. To this day he has a disagreeable accent. Moreover, we hasten to point out, external pubertal signs in this boy did not appear for 2 years, thus strengthening our neurological point. The conclusion is obvious then: it is sex and not puberty which causes accents. Were it not that we rush this study to print before someone else gets credit for the idea, we would surely find the doubly confirming case of a post-pubertal adolescent who learned the second language with no accent by virtue of delayed sexual indulgence. Clearly, then, it is sexual experience which triggers cellular mylenization of the lateralizing brain structures contra-indicative of second language acquisition.

Needless to say, the pedagogical implications of these findings are ramificatory. Onset of puberty can be manipulated by pharmacological means which are only justified in procedures crucial to the operation of society; only one has been deemed sufficiently urgent to dateathletics. Sex, on the other hand, may be more subtly controlled, with fewer repercussions to the subject/student (Freud’s exaggerated maunderings aside) so that the luxury of accent-free second language learning may be achieved. Indeed, once our data are made known to students and potential seducers alike, we cannot doubt that all good Americans will rise to the challenge and let their second language learning come first.

(Untitled)—James D. McCawley
The Great Yale Autodescriptives List—Michael A. Covington
Son of Lingua Pranca Contents