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The Interactional InstinctThe Evolution and Acquisition of Language$
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Namhee Lee, Lisa Mikesell, Anna Dina L. Joaquin, Andrea W. Mates, and John H. Schumann

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195384246

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195384246.001.0001

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The Interactional Instinct in Primary‐ and Second‐Language Acquisition

The Interactional Instinct in Primary‐ and Second‐Language Acquisition

(p.167) 6 The Interactional Instinct in Primary‐ and Second‐Language Acquisition
The Interactional Instinct

Namhee Lee

Lisa Mikesell

Anna Dina L. Joaquin

Andrea W. Mates

John H. Schumann

Oxford University Press

In second‐language acquisition, the affiliative phase comes first. The learner positively appraises one or more speakers of the target language and makes efforts to affiliate with them. If the efforts are successful, the learner will experience consummatory rewards generated by the opiate system. These rewards promote learning. As the child passes into adolescence and adulthood, changes take place in the hormone, peptide, and neurotransmitter systems that support affiliation in primary‐language acquisition. Dopamine levels increase until the onset of puberty and then gradually decrease throughout life. The opiate system is modulated by oxytocin and vasopressin. These neuromodulators are also found at high levels in the child and become lower as the individual ages. The abundance of dopamine, opiates, oxytocin, and vasopressin in the child's brain supports interaction with conspecifics and guarantees primary‐language acquisition. The reduction of these substances in the mature brain may contribute to the difficulties in second‐language acquisition experienced by older learners.

Keywords:   second‐language acquisition, affiliation, consummatory, adolescence, dopamine, oxytocin, vasopressin, older learners

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