Impact of L1 Head-Parameter Setting on Learning of L2

A Longitudinal Study of Simultaneous Learning of Urdu and English as Second Languages by Hindko L1 Speaker


  • Rustam Assistant Professor of English, GPGC Mandian Abbottabad
  • Ghani Rahman Assistant Professor, Department of English, Hazara University, Mansehra


Innateness, Second Language Learning, Universal Principles, Parametric Variation, Language Acquisition Device


Universal Grammar posits that all world languages have common universal principles and language-specific rules or parameters. Languages differ from one another only in parametric setting (Chomsky, 1957). Structure dependency, syntactic projection and head parameter are some of the principles common to every language. However, within these principles, each language has its own specific rules or parameters such as head first-or-last parameter and null-subject parameter. Chomsky posits if first language (L1) and the second language (L2) have the same position of the head in phrases, learning of the second language will be quick and easy because L1 language acquisition device (LAD) facilitates L2 LAD in the learning process. The current study is based on cognitive theory of language learning propounded by Chomsky (1957, 1965, 1975, 1976). The study reports how learning of L2 (Urdu) was facilitated by L1 (Hindko) because of the same head parameter setting. Noor-ul-Ain, a 3-year old kid learnt grammatically well-formed verb and prepositional phrases of Urdu (L2) as compared to English (L2) within the same time span of target language input. The only plausible reason behind such a quick and easy acquisition of Urdu (L2) phrases was the sameness of head-parameter setting of Urdu and Hindko in which the learner did not have to shuffle her LAD while in the case of English (L2) the child’s learning was poor because of different head-parameter setting. In the case of English the learner had to shuffle her LAD in order to have access to the principles of Universal Grammar in her mind.  The study has many classroom implications as well. Urdu Language Teaching (ULT) to Hindko speakers will be comparatively easy as comparedto English Language Teaching (ELT) because Hindko and Urdu are head-last languages.