Context of learning and overcoming protracted instability at the interface in advanced L2 learning: Evidence from definite plurals in L2 Arabic



Interface properties have been found to exhibit protracted instability in advanced bilingualism and L2 learning (Sorace, 2000, 2005; Sorace & Filiaci, 2006). This study examines the role of learning context in modulating this instability in an interface property, namely the interpretation of definite plurals in L2 Arabic. Generic readings in English preverbal positions are expressed with bare plurals, which are ungrammatical in Arabic. Performances of two advanced English-speaking learners of Arabic in two learning contexts are compared: formal language instruction in an at-home (AH) setting and an extended study abroad (SA) setting. Results of two elicited production tasks reveal that whereas the advanced-AH group fluctuated between bare plurals (arguably transferred from L1) and definite plurals, the advanced-SA group opted for definite plurals. These results confirm Sorace’s (2011) claim that protracted instability is real in interface properties in advanced bilingualism. They further suggest that input conditions and learning context play a crucial role in overcoming this instability. Active contact with the L2, which is characteristic of extended SA settings, is suggested to stabilize L2 forms and preempt competing L1 forms in interface properties.           

Author Biography

Mahmoud Azaz, University of Arizona

Mahmoud Azaz is an Associate Professor of Arabic & SLA and Distinguished Fellow at the University of Arizona. He holds a Ph.D. with Distinction in Arabic SLA. His research interests include linguistic and sociocultural approaches to Arabic second language acquisition, Arabic program administration, and Arabic sociolinguistics. Numerous articles by Mahmoud were published in journals in applied linguistics. His recent books include Instructed Second Language Acquisition of Arabic (Routledge Press, 2023) and Perspectives on Arabic Linguistics XXXIV (John Benjamins Publishing, 2023). A co-authored textbook, Contemporary Egyptian Arabic, is in preparation for production (Georgetown University Press). Also, he is currently co-editing a special issue on multilingual perspectives in L2 Arabic (Journal of Critical Multilingual Studies). His recent co-authored articles focus on multidialectal practices in Arabic heritage and content-based instruction. His recent funded projects focus on socio-pragmatic competence, linguistic complexity, and multilingualism in the context of L2 Arabic. 


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How to Cite

Azaz, M. (2022). Context of learning and overcoming protracted instability at the interface in advanced L2 learning: Evidence from definite plurals in L2 Arabic. Arab Journal of Applied Linguistics, 7(2), 35–95. Retrieved from