Evidence for Multi-competence

     SLA Topics  SLA Bibliography  Vivian Cook  

multi-competence:  knowledge of two or more languages in the same mind

To use two languages familiarly and without contaminating one by the other, is very difficult; and to use more than two is hardly to be hoped. The prizes which some have received for their multiplicity of languages may be sufficient to excite industry, but can hardly generate confidence. Samuel Johnson 1761

draft book section on multi-competence and UG


I. Evidence for multi-competence as a distinct state of mind

1. L2 users differ from monolinguals in knowledge of the L1
[e.g. VOT, word associations]

2. advanced L2 users differ from monolinguals in knowledge of the L2 [e.g. ‘ultimate’ attainment, RTs, STM]

3. people who know an L2 have a different metalinguistic awareness from people who know only an L1
[e.g. detection of anomalous sentences, arbitrariness of sign, etc]

4. L2 users have different cognitive processes from monolinguals
[e.g. cognitive flexibility]

II. Evidence for wholistic multi-competence

1. the L1 and L2 share the same mental lexicon

2. L2 users codeswitch readily from L1 to L2

3. L2 processing cannot be cut off from L1

4. both languages are stored in roughly the same areas of the brain

    a) hemispheric lateralisation

    b) same sites

5. the level of L2 proficiency in academic circumstances is related to the level of L1 proficiency

Note the two lists above come from Cook (1992) and need up-dating and qualification in various ways

Language Teaching and Multi-competence

overall:        goal is multi-competence in its own right
                     language is knowledge

syllabus:      defined in multi-competence terms
                     emphasis on the lexicon
                     grading of functional categories etc
methods:     data provision
                     parameter setting
do not ignore L1 present invisibly in the situation constantly

   Multi-competence Cook references

Cook, V.J. (1991). The poverty-of-the-stimulus argument and multi-competence. Second Language Research, 7, 2, 103-117

Cook, V.J. (1992). 'Evidence for multi-competence', Language Learning, 42, 4, 557-591

Cook, V.J. 'The metaphor of access to Universal Grammar', in N. Ellis (ed.), Implicit Learning and Language, Academic Press, 1994, 477-502

Cook, V.J. ‘Multi-competence and effects of age’, in Singleton, D. & Lengyel, Z. (eds.), The Age Factor in Second Language Acquisition. Multilingual Matters, 1995, 51-66

Cook, V.J. (1995). Multi-competence and the learning of many languages. Language, Culture and Curriculum, 8, 2, 93-98

Cook, V.J. (1996), ‘Competence and multi-competence’ in G. Brown, K. Malmkjaer, & J. Williams (eds.), Performance and Competence in Second Language Acquisition,  CUP, 57-69

Cook, V.J. (1997), ‘The consequences of bilingualism for cognitive processing’, in A. de Groot and J.F. Kroll (eds.), Tutorials in Bilingualism: Psycholinguistic Perspectives, Lawrence Erlbaum

Cook, V.J. (1999), ‘Going beyond the native speaker in language teaching’, TESOL Quarterly, 33, 2, 185-209

Cook, V.J. (2001), 'Using the L1 in the classroom' CMLR, 57, 3, 402-423, 2001

Cook, V.J. (ed.) (2002), Portraits of the L2 user, Clevedon: Multilingual Matters

Cook, V.J. (ed.) (2003), Effects of the Second Language on the First, Clevedon: Multilingual Matters