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Multiple Grammars and Second
Language Representation

Second Language Research
2014, Vol. 30(1) 3–36
© The Author(s) 2013
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DOI: 10.1177/0267658313519017

Luiz Amaral and Tom Roeper
University of Massachusetts Amherst

Move2 This paper presents an extension of the Multiple Grammars Theory (Roeper, 1999) to provide a
step1 formal mechanism that can serve as a generative-based alternative to current descriptive models
of interlanguage. The theory extends historical work by Kroch and Taylor (1997), and has been

Move1 taken into a computational direction by Yang (2003). The proposal is based on the idea that any
step2 human grammar readily accommodates sets of rules in sub-grammars that can seem (apparently)
contradictory. We discuss the rationale behind this proposal and establish a dialogue with recent

Move3 research in SLA, multilingualism, L3 acquisition, and L2 processing. We compare the Multiple
step1 Grammars explanation to optionality in L2 to other current proposals, and provide experimental
results that can demonstrate the existence of active sub-grammars in the linguistic representation
of L2 speakers.

Multiple Grammars, Interlanguage, Universal Bilingualism, Second Language Acquisition, UG.

Multiple Grammars (MG) is a theory of representation and acquisition that was originally proposed by Roeper (1999) to explain how idiosyncratic, incompatible rules could
co-exist in adult monolingual grammars, and how they played a role in child first language acquisition. The extension of a model that was also called Universal Bilingualism
to describe the interlanguage representation in adult second language learners, and bilinguals in general, seems to be an obvious next step, although the consequences of this
extension are not necessarily trivial.
Different from traditional learnability theory, MG does not presuppose that new input
requires the speaker to change a rule in the grammar in a way that either information is
Corresponding author:
Luiz Amaral, University of Massachusetts Amherst, 300 Massachusetts Avenue, Amherst, MA 01003, United
Email: amaral@spanport.umass.edu