language acquisition, grammatical morphemes, second language


For a number of decades now, a widely accepted belief of language acquisition researchers is the so called natural order hypothesis (Dulay, Burt, & Krashen, 1982; Ellis, 1994; Larsen-Freeman & Long, 1991). According to this hypothesis, certain grammatical morphemes emerge in a universal order in learners of English as a second language. Most of the data collection in this line of research was done in the 1970’s against a backdrop of theory which espoused the notion of L1 transfer to L2 acquisition on the one hand and a universal grammar perspective on the other. Most dealt with oral language production (Bailey, Madden, & Krashen, 1974; Dulay & Burt, 1973; Dulay & Burt, 1974; Fathman, 1975; Mace-Matluck, 1979, but a few (Anderson, 1977; Brown, 1983; Krashen, Butler, Birnbaum, & Robertson ,1978; Larsen-Freeman, 1975) examined written data. There were a few studies that continued to be reported during the 1980’s and 1990’s (See, for example, Lightbown, Spada, & Wallace, 1980; Lightbown, 1983; O’Dowd, 1991; Pica, 1983). Both ESL and EFL learners of different ages and different learning contexts appeared to follow the proposed natural order. Thus, in spite of the fact that these natural order studies have been criticized on a number of theoretical and methodological grounds over decades, the findings have come to be generally accepted.

Original Publication Citation

Weitze, M., McGhee, J. Dewey, D. P., Graham, C. R., & Eggett, D. L. (2009). Variability in L2 acquisition across L1 backgrounds. (pp. 152-163). In L. Plonsky & M. Schierloh (Eds.), Selected proceedings of the 2009 Second Language Research Forum: Diverse contributions to SLA. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Cascadilla Proceedings Project







University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor

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Linguistics Commons