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A Philosophy of Second Language Acquisition

A Philosophy of Second Language Acquisition

Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    A Philosophy of Second Language Acquisition
    Book Description:

    How does a person learn a second language? In this provocative book, Marysia Johnson proposes a new model of second language acquisition (SLA)-a model that shifts the focus from language competence (the ability to pass a language exam) to language performance (using language competently in real-life contexts).Johnson argues that current SLA theory and research is heavily biased in the direction of the cognitive and experimental scientific tradition. She shows that most models of SLA are linear in nature and subscribe to the conduit metaphor of knowledge transfer: the speaker encodes a message, the hearer decodes the sent message. Such models establish a strict demarcation between learners' mental and social processes. Yet the origin of second language acquisition is located not exclusively in the learner's mind but also in a dialogical interaction conducted in a variety of sociocultural and institutional settings, says the author. Drawing on Vygotsky's sociocultural theory and Bakhtin's literary theory, she constructs an alternative framework for second language theory, research, teaching, and testing. This approach directs attention toward the investigation of dynamic and dialectical relationships between the interpersonal (social) plane and the intrapersonal (individual) plane. Johnson's model shifts the focus of SLA away from a narrow emphasis on language competence toward a broader view that encompasses the interaction between language competence and performance.Original and controversial,A Philosophy of Second Language Acquisitionoffers:· an introduction to Vygotsky's sociocultural theory and Bakhtin's literary theory, both of which support an alternative framework for second language acquisition;· an examination of the existing cognitive bias in SLA theory and research;· a radically new model of second language acquisition.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12941-0
    Subjects: Linguistics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    The purpose of this book is twofold: First, it is to introduce the reader to Lev Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory (SCT) and Mikhail Bakhtin’s literary theory. These theories constitute the foundation for analternativeframework for theory, research, teaching, and testing in second language acquisition (SLA). Second, it is to discuss the existing cognitive bias in SLA theory and research.

    In my opinion, the combined theories of Vygotsky and Bakhtin offer a powerful framework for the ever-expanding field of SLA. The power of this new framework lies in its capacity to unite divergent views of SLA that often present a source...

  5. Part One: Following the Cognitive Tradition

    • 1 Three Major Scientific Research Traditions
      (pp. 9-17)

      In this chapter I describe three major scientific research traditions that greatly influenced theories and methods of SLA. For detailed discussions of these different traditions of scientific knowledge, the reader is encouraged to refer to the work of Rom Harré and Grant Gillett (1994), Ragnar Rommetveit (1968, 1974, 1987, 1992), Jerome Bruner (1996), Numa Markee (1994), Robert Ochsner (1979), Diane Larsen-Freeman and Michael Long (1993), and Kurt Danziger (1990).

      From a historical point of view, these three scientific traditions can be ordered as follows:

      1. Behaviorist

      2. Cognitive-Computational

      3. Dialogical

      The last tradition has also been associated with the following...

    • 2 Behaviorism and Second Language Learning
      (pp. 18-29)

      The origin of SLA as a scientific field is embedded in the behavioristic tradition, which dominated the field from the 1940s to the 1960s. It is also closely associated with contrastive analysis (CA), which had a great impact not only on SLA theory but also on second language classroom teaching.

      Contrary to its counterpart in Europe, where CA was viewed as an integral part of a general linguistic theory (Fisiak 1981) and the goal was to understand and explain the nature of natural languages, CA in the United States had strong pedagogical roots. In addition, it adhered to the prevailing...

    • 3 The Cognitive Tradition and Second Language Acquisition
      (pp. 30-45)

      After rejecting behaviorism and structuralism, the field of SLA embraced the cognitive tradition. This trend in SLA theory is also linguistically based, owing to its heavy reliance on Noam Chomsky’s linguistic theory of first language acquisition. Chomsky (1965, 1980, 1981a, 1981b) made a convincing argument for the existence of an innate domain-specific language faculty, which he called the language acquisition device (LAD). The LAD includes universal grammar (UG), which is indispensable for the child’s ability to acquire his or her native language. Chomsky does not view language as speech to be used in real-life communication but as a set of...

    • 4 Information Processing Models
      (pp. 46-84)

      In this chapter I discuss SLA models that adhere to the information-processing paradigm—the newer version of the cognitive tradition. The selected models include Bill VanPatten’s (1996) input processing model and Susan Gass and Larry Selinker’s (2001) model of second language acquisition. The discussion of these models is preceded by a description of two theories: Stephen Krashen’s input hypothesis (1985) and Michael Long’s (1983b, 1996) interaction hypothesis, which influenced the selected information processing models and the field of SLA in general.

      The impact of Krashen’s input hypothesis on the field of second language acquisition and teaching has been profound. His...

    • 5 Communicative Competence Versus Interactional Competence
      (pp. 85-100)

      In this chapter I describe two of the most popular and influential models of communicative competence. Their descriptions will be preceded by a historical overview of the notion of communicative competence. At the end of this chapter I also describe interactional competence (Young 1999), which represents an alternative framework. The purpose of this chapter is to further illustrate the current cognitive “bias” in SLA theory and research.

      As illustrated below, despite having a name that may give the impression that these models adhere to a communicative view of language, communication (that is, interaction) is viewed as a cognitive issue. In...

  6. Part Two: A Dialogical Approach to SLA

    • 6 Fundamental Principles of Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory
      (pp. 103-119)

      In this chapter I describe the major tenets of Lev Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory (SCT). I also present some biographical information about Vygotsky in support of his claim that we are all products of the social, cultural, and historical environments to which we have been exposed in the course of our lives. As one would expect of a genius, some of his ideas transcend time and space; some, however, are a clear reflection of his time: they are rooted in the political and social climate of his era.

      Vygotsky was born Lev Vygodsky on November 5, 1896, in Orsha, a small...

    • 7 Bakhtin’s Dialogized Heteroglossia
      (pp. 120-128)

      Mikhail Bakhtin (1895–1975) was introduced to an American audience in 1968 when his “Role of Games in Rabelais” was included in a volume of the Yale French Studies series on the topic of game, play, and literature. Although most of his works were written in the 1920s and 1930s, they were not available to the Western public until the 1970s.

      Bakhtin’s contribution to the field of human sciences, in particular to a theory of literature, has been compared to the works of Barthes (1972), Derrida (1981), and Lévi-Strauss (1972). Considering the fact that these individuals are regarded as the...

    • 8 Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory and Second Language Learning
      (pp. 129-169)

      In this chapter I describe and discuss some of the most important research studies that investigated the application of Vygotsky’s SCT to second language acquisition. This chapter is divided into four sections. Each presents studies that focused on one particular principle of SCT such as the zone of proximal development (ZPD), the role of interaction, activity theory, and private and inner speech. Most of the studies discussed in this chapter are included in Lantolf and Appel (1998) and Lantolf (2000). At this point, I would like to express my appreciation for the work of Lantolf, who has been one of...

    • 9 Building a New Model of Second Language Acquisition
      (pp. 170-190)

      In this chapter I describe a new model of SLA that is based on Lev Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory and Mikhail Bakhtin’s dialogized heteroglossia, and I discuss its implications for SLA theory and practice. This chapter is divided into three sections: in the first I discuss some implications of this new model for SLA theory and research; in the second I address its implications for teaching; and in the third I discuss its implications for second language testing.

      As the findings of the studies described in Chapter 8 indicate, Vygotsky’s theory holds great promise for the field of second language theory...

  7. Bibliography
    (pp. 191-202)
  8. Index
    (pp. 203-207)