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New Trends in SLA Research: Theories, Methods, Ethics Lourdes Ortega University of Hawai‘i at M ā noa National Tsing Hua University Taiwan, June 8, 2011.

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Presentation on theme: "New Trends in SLA Research: Theories, Methods, Ethics Lourdes Ortega University of Hawai‘i at M ā noa National Tsing Hua University Taiwan, June 8, 2011."— Presentation transcript:

1 New Trends in SLA Research: Theories, Methods, Ethics Lourdes Ortega University of Hawai‘i at M ā noa National Tsing Hua University Taiwan, June 8, 2011

2 Please cite as: Ortega, L. (2011). New trends in SLA research: Theories, methods, ethics. Invited lecture at National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan, June 8. Copyright © Lourdes Ortega, 2011

3 Background: Since the mid 1990s, intense disciplinary crisis & reflection in SLA Wagner & Firth (1997) and Lafford’s (2007) Special 10-year anniversary of Firth & Wagner (1997) in Modern Language Journal.

4 Writing reflective overviews : Ortega (2007) and (2011) in VanPatten & Williams (Eds.) (2007) & in Atkinson (Ed.) (2011)

5 Writing an SLA textbook and anthologizing the field: Ortega (2009) and (2010b)

6 Guiding Question: What will it take in the future so we can improve our explanations about second language learning?

7 epistemological diversity interdisciplinarity: Cognitive Science Social Theories Study of Bilingualism Values:

8 Challenge 1: addressing the explicit- implicit knowledge interface

9 Theoretical explosion in SLA: VanPatten & Williams (Eds.) (2007) Atkinson (Ed.) (2011)

10 Main theories in SLA (VanPatten & Williams, Eds., 2007): Functionalist-linguistic SLA (e.g., Barvodi-Harlig, Ch. 4; Pienemann, Ch. 8) Formal-linguistic SLA (e.g., White, Ch. 3; Carroll, Ch. 9) Connectionist-emergentist (e.g., N. Ellis, Ch. 5) [ LINGUISTIC roots ] [ PSYCHOLOGICAL roots ] Cognitive-interactionist (e.g., Gass & Mackey, Ch. 10; VanPatten, Ch. 7; TBLT: Robinson, Skehan, etc...) Vygostkian SLA (e.g., Lantolf & Thorne, Ch. 11) Skills acquisition (e.g., DeKeyser, Ch. 6) [ECLECTIVE linguistic & psychological, & social psychological roots] [ SOCIOCULTURAL roots ]

11 Alternative theories in SLA (Atkinson, Ed., 2011): Identity Theory (e.g., Norton & McKinney, Ch. 3) Language Socialization Theory (e.g., Duff & Talmy, Ch. 4) Complexity theory (e.g., Larsen-Freeman, Ch. 2) [ LINGUISTIC ANTHR. roots ] [ NATURAL SCIENCE roots ] CA-for-SLA (e.g., Kasper & Wagner, Ch. 5) Vygostkian SLA (e.g., Lantolf, Ch. 1) Sociocognitive Approach (e.g., Atkinson, Ch. 6) [SOCIOLOGICAL roots] [ SOCIOCULTURAL roots ] [ POST-STRUCTURALIST roots ] [ ECOLOGY+ DISCOURSE roots ]

12 Current positions/foci on “L2 knowledge” General cognitive Social Cognitive- interactionist theories Vygotskian; Identity Skills acquisition theory Generativist theory; Functionalist approaches Emergentist, Complexity, and Dynamic Systems theories Implicit mostly Explicit>Implicit Explicit+Implicit Linguistic Explicit+Implicit Implicit only Language Socialization Explicit mostly CA-for-SLA; Sociocognitive Implicit

13 Importance is recognized in L2 instruction research: + Grammar explanation; + Metalanguage; + Instructions to attend to specific form; etc Most explicit + Exposure to input made salient by engineering: Phonological or typographical salience Frequency Order of presentation etc Most implicit e.g., NTHU’s Hung-Tzu Huang: meta-analysis of input enhancement in SSLA (Lee & Huang, 2008)

14 Relative recent interest at the psycholinguistic level: DeKeyser (2003) HSLA “explicit > implicit” R. Ellis (2004) LL “Definition & measurement…” N. Ellis (2005) SSLA “At the interface…” Sharwood Smith & Truscott (2005) AL the processing origins of L2 knowledge

15 But still disengagement or underdetermination are the norm: Illustrative case in point: RECAST debate (Lyster, 2004; Long, 2006)

16 Where do we look for benefits brought about by recasts?

17 Evidence of “learning”? 1. immediate responses Incorporation (=successful uptake) S: Some people have racism. T: Some people ARE racist. S: are racist. Loewen & Philp (2006, p. 541)McDonough (2006, p. 186) Structural priming A: Where where where you break it? B: Where did you break it? Mae Sot+ A: Mae Sot in Tak? B: Yeah+ A: Why why why did you go there?

18 Evidence of “learning”? 2.retrospection Nabei & Swain (2002, p. 55) I said ‘freedom of thinking’. I was not certain if it should be ‘thinking’ or ‘thought’. I didn’t come up with ‘thought’ then, so I said ‘freedom of thinking’, then I felt it might be wrong. Then the teacher said ‘freedom of thought’. So I thought, ‘Oh, oh. I was wrong – just as I thought.’

19 Evidence of “learning”? 3. pre-post test changes Mackey & Goo (2007): Meta-analysis of interaction & feedback, 10 studies of recasts yielded d=0.96

20 Benefits for learning: explicit or implicit knowledge? Recasts Negative evidence & cognitive comparison (L1: Farrar, Nelson....) Noticing (Schmidt) Testing hypothesis, pushed output (Lyster) Positive evidence & enhanced input (L2: Leeman, McDonough, Doughty) Repeated processing held in memory Memory trace, frequency tallying explicit?? implicit?? Incorporation & Introspection Structural priming & Pre-post-test gains

21 Undeniable: explicit, top down, and conscious processing implicit, bottom up, and subconscious processing

22 What to do?

23 At this stage of SLA’s disciplinary knowledge… …it is problematic for any theory to discard a priori one or the other type of knowledge as irrelevant for explaining L2 acquisition; …and also problematic is to neglect to clarify whether claims about learning are made with regard to explicit or implicit cognition

24 Challenge 1: Methodological solutions required

25 Tall order: SLA researchers will need to draw from cognitive science in this area in order to make explorations neurobiologically plausible (e.g., the work by Georgetown alumni who trained in Michael Ullman’s lab: Kara Morgan-Short, Harriet Wood Bowden )

26 Tall order: Ideally, SLA researchers will also combine training and methodologies to produce yoked behavioral and neurological evidence (e.g., NTHU faculty trained in the psycholinguistics of processing and in neurolinguistics: Chun-Chieh Natalie Hsu, Fan-Pei Gloria Yang )

27 Challenge 2: theorizing experience

28  Differential experience is connected to one of the most salient facts to be explained by any SLA theory: variability and heterogeneity in L2 learning processes and outcomes  Yet, traditional SLA theories are ill- equipped to deal with variability and, as a consequence, they trivialize learner experience as anecdotal, divesting it from any theoretical status

29 The importance of diverse social contexts for L2 learning resides less in externally documented experience or fixed environmental encounters and more in experience that is lived, made sense of, negotiated, contested, and claimed by learners in their physical, interpersonal, social, cultural, and historical context.

30 What to do?

31 1. Look for theories that offer social respecifications of phenomena: L2 communication : Conversation Analysis L2 grammar : Systemic-Functional Linguistics L2 cognition : Vygotskian theory L2 learning : Language socialization L2 sense of self : Identity theory

32 Good example: NTHU’s Yu- Jung Chang’s study of the non-deficit oriented, agentive identities of 4 doctoral graduate students in the US who were so-called non-native speakers (Chang & Kanno, 2010)

33 2. Investigate diverse contexts & populations: Second, foreign, heritage language contexts Disparate social milieus with varying L2 use needs L1 semiliterate/L1 oral populations of L2 learners Varying ages

34 Challenge 2: Theoretical solutions already underway

35 But… better done 1 than 2 so far: SLA researchers have begun to look for theories that offer social respecifications of phenomena (“the social turn in SLA”) But SLA as a field continues to investigate very limited contexts & population

36 Yet, crucial: We do not know what new theoretical models will need to be advanced, or how the present ones will need to be modified, once SLA researchers begin to investigate populations that are currently seriously understudied (e.g., Bigelow, 2010; Valdés, 2005;Verhoeven, 1994)

37 Challenge 3: re-evaluating SLA theories through the prism of bilingualism

38 Native speaker as golden benchmark and reference: To judge what ultimate attainment should look like and whether it is possible (in L2) To explain what we can expect in L2 development data and what we see To evaluate educational goals & outcomes, i.e., communicative competence = “like a NS” (linguistic knowledge, pragmatics, collocations, rhetoric, gestures…)

39 Canagarajah (2004) Firth & Wagner (1997) García (2009) Hall et al. (2006) Holliday (1994); Holliday & Aboshiha (2009) Jenkins (2006) Leung (2005) Norton & Toohey (2001) Rampton (1990) Seidlhofer (2001) Phillipson & Skutnabb-Kangas (1986) Shohamy (2006) Sridhar (1994) Extensive critique against “nativespeakerism” from social and critical perspectives: ………..and so many more !

40 But in SLA, to present day: L2 acquisition = developing native competence

41 But… what do we mean by “native”?

42 a language user… + by birth + born to one language only + no detectable traces of other languages “native”:

43 “monolingual native” “native” =

44 “non-native speaker” = “native speaker” = By birth One language Multiple languages Not by birth

45 L2 competence in SLA:  two monolingual speakers housed in a single head?  monolingual-like competence the goal?  monolingual and monocultural acts of a special (secondary) nature?  language competencies static and fixed in the L1, and dynamic and in flux only in the L2?

46 L2 acquisition = “efforts by monolingual adults to add on a monolingual-like command of an additional language” (Ortega, 2009, p. 5) + in an imagined world where what’s given/owned by birth can never be matched or altered by experience/history (Ortega, 2010a) Monolingual Bias in SLA

47 Accepted tenets in the study of bilingualism: Bilinguals cannot be reduced to the sum of two monolinguals in one. (Grosjean, 1989)

48 Accepted tenets in the study of bilingualism: Context-free, fixed, and dichotomous NS/NNS categories have questionable validity. (Li Wei, 2000)

49 Accepted tenets in the study of bilingualism: The development of multiple language competencies is a process mediated by amount of use/degree of activation across languages. (e.g., Sebastián-Gall és et al., 2005)

50 Accepted tenets in the study of bilingualism: The development of additional language competence interacts with, destabilizes, and most likely transforms the nature of linguistic competence across the languages of the individual (languages interact). (e.g., Cenoz et al., 2001)

51 Good example: NTHU’s I-Ru Su’s study of bi-directional transfer in Taiwanese learners of EFL doing requests and being conventionally indirect (Su, 2010)

52 What to do?

53 1. Pursue new constructs: “multi-competence is not just the imperfect cloning of mono-competence, but a different state” (Vivian Cook, 2002, pp. 7-8) people who speak more than one language posses varying expertise, inheritance, and affilitation across their languages (Rampton, 1990)

54 2. Pursue new empirical baselines: Compare incipient and emerging bilinguals to fully developed bilinguals; bi/multilinguals cannot be directly compared to monolinguals; the sole benchmark for comparison cannot be monolinguals. (Birdsong, 2005; Harley & Wang, 1997; Singleton, 2003)

55 3. Pursue new designs: Investigate a learner’s multiple languages simultaneously within the same study. (Ortega & Carson, 2010)

56 4. Craft new discourse of bilingualism as potentiality, not deficit:

57 … proponents of this view offer an explanation for adults’ relative failure to reach nativelikeness that is based on neurological changes that occur at a certain age (e.g., puberty) and that lead to a sudden or gradual deterioration or distortion of the implicit language learning mechanism…


59 … a number of studies show that L2 learners’ employment of formulaic sequences is often problematic. Although learners can produce a considerable number of native-like sequences…, there is evidence that learners’ restricted formulaic repertoires lead them to overuse those sequences they know well … Still, overall, nonnative use of formulaic sequences is less pervasive and less diverse than native norms … It is not surprising, therefore, that L2 learners’ failure to use native-like formulaic sequences is one factor in making their writing feel nonnative…


61 discourses of deficit are persuasive!! “many bilinguals … have a tendency to evaluate their language competencies as inadequate. Some criticize their mastery of language skills, others strive their hardest to reach monolingual norms, others still hide their knowledge of their “weaker” language, and most simply do not perceive themselves as being bilingual even though they use two (or more) languages regularly” Grosjean (2008, p. 224)

62 Challenge 3: Theoretical- methodological-ethical solutions badly needed!!!

63 Badly needed: a bilingual turn in SLA!! Reorientating towards studying what L1+L2 (multicompetent/bilingual) users can do, as opposed to only understanding what they cannot or wish not to do in their L2

64 SLA, a field “ learning to be bilingual” “pathways to multicompetence” in pursuit of knowledge about: supportive of:

65 In conclusion…

66 Theories + Methods + Ethics Theories 1.… clarifying explicit-implicit knowledge 2.… properly investigating learners’ experience New Trends in SLA Research… Methods 3.…conceptualizing SLA as bilingualism, fighting the monolingual bias

67 Looking forward, looking ahead To more empirical work on the nature of explicit and implicit language knowledge and their respective contributions to L2 learning To more theorizing into ways to study how the lived experiences afforded by different social contexts shape L2 learning; more empirical work across diverse experiences (=diverse social contexts) To a bilingual turn in SLA!!

68 Thank You

69 References: Atkinson, D. (Ed.). (2011). Alternative approaches in second language acquisition. New York: Routledge. Bigelow, M. H. (2010). Mogadishu on the Mississippi: Language, racialized identity, and education in a new land. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell. Birdsong, D. P. (2005). Nativelikeness and non-nativelikeness in L2A research. International Review of Applied Linguistics, 43, Canagarajah, S. (2004). Subversive identities, pedagogical safe houses, and critical learning. In B. Norton & K. Toohey (Eds.), Critical pedagogies and language learning (pp ). New York: Cambridge University Press. Cenoz, J., Hufeisen, B., & Jessner, U. (2001). Cross-linguistic influence in third language acquisition: Psycholinguistic perspectives. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters. Chang, Y.-J., & Kanno, Y. (2010). NNES doctoral students in English-speaking academe: The nexus between language and discipline. Applied Linguistics, 31, 671–692. Cook, V. (2002). Background of the L2 user. In V. Cook (Ed.), Portraits of the L2 user (pp. 1-28). Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters. DeKeyser, R. (2003). Implicit and explicit learning. In C. J. Doughty & M. H. Long (Eds.), Handbook of second language acquisition (pp ). Malden, MA: Blackwell. Ellis, N. C. (2005). At the interface: Dynamic interactions of explicit and implicit language knowledge. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 27, Ellis, R. (2004). The definition and measurement of L2 explicit knowledge. Language Learning, 54, 227–275.

70 Firth, A., & Wagner, J. (1997). On discourse, communication, and (some) fundamental concepts in SLA research. The Modern Language Journal, 81, García, O. (2009). Bilingual education in the 21st century: A global perspective. (with contributions by Hugo Baetens Beardsmore). Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell. Grosjean, F. (1989). Neurolinguists, beware! The bilingual is not two monolinguals in one person. Brain and Language, 36, Grosjean, F. (2008). Studying Bilinguals. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. Hall, J. K., Cheng, A., & Carlson, M. T. (2006). Reconceptualizing multicompetence as a theory of language knowledge. Applied Linguistics, 27, 220–240. Harley, B., & Wang, W. (1997). The critical period hypothesis: Where are we now? In A. M. B. d. Groot & J. F. Kroll (Eds.), Tutorials in bilingualism: Psycholinguistic perspectives (pp ). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum. Holliday, A. (1994). Appropriate methodology and social context. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Holliday, A., & Aboshiha, P. (2009). The denial of ideology in perceptions of 'nonnative speaker' teachers. TESOL Quarterly, 43, Jenkins, J. (2006). Points of view and blind spots: ELF and SLA. International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 16, Lafford, B. (Ed.). (2007). Second language reconceptualized? The impact of Firth and Wagner (1997). Modern Language Journal, 91, (Issue Supplement s1), Lee, S.-K., & Huang, H. T. (2008). Visual input enhancement and grammar learning: A meta-analytic review. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 30, Leung, C. (2005). Convivial communication: Recontextualizing communicative competence. International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 15(2),

71 Loewen, S., & Philp, J. (2006). Recasts in the adult L2 classroom: characteristics, explicitness and effectiveness. Modern Language Journal, 90, Long, M. H. (2006). Problems in SLA. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Lyster, R. (2004). Differential effects of prompts and recasts in form-focused instruction. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 26, Mackey, A., & Goo, J. M. (2007). Interaction research in SLA: A meta-analysis and research synthesis. In A. Mackey (Ed.), Conversational interaction in second language acquisition: A collection of empirical studies (pp ). New York: Oxford University Press. McDonough, K. (2006). Interaction and syntactic priming: English L2 speakers’ production of dative constructions. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 28, Nabei, T., & Swain, M. (2002). Learner awareness of recasts in classroom interaction: A case study of an adult EFL student's second language learning. Language Awareness, 11, Norton, B., & Toohey, K. (2001). Changing perspectives on good language learners. TESOL Quarterly, 35, Ortega, L. (2007). Second language learning explained? SLA across nine contemporary theories. In B. VanPatten & J. Williams (Eds.), Theories in second language acquisition: An introduction (pp ). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Ortega, L. (2009). Understanding second language acquisition. London: Hodder Arnold. Ortega, L. (2010a). The bilingual turn in SLA. Plenary speech delivered at the American Association for Applied Linguistics Conference, Atlanta, GA, March 6-9. Ortega, L. (Ed.). (2010b). Critical Concepts in Linguistics: Second Language Acquisition. New York: Routledge. Ortega, L. (2011). SLA after the social turn: Where cognitivism and its alternatives stand. In D. Atkinson (Ed.), Alternative approaches in second language acquisition (pp ). New York: Routledge.

72 Ortega, L., & Carson, J. G. (2010). Multicompetence, social context, and L2 writing research praxis. In T. Silva & P. K. Matsuda (Eds.), Practicing theory in second language writing (pp ). West Lafayette, IN: Parlor Press. Phillipson, R., & Skutnabb-Kangas, T. (Eds.). (1986). Linguicism rules in education. Roskilde, Denmark Roskilde University Centre Institute VI. Rampton, M. B. H. (1990). Displacing the "native speaker": Expertise, affiliation, and inheritance. English Language Teaching Journal, 44, Sebastián-Gallés, N., Echeverría, S., & Bosch, L. (2005). The influence of initial exposure on lexical representation: Comparing early and simultaneous bilinguals. Journal of Memory and Language 52, Seidlhofer, B. (2001). Closing a conceptual gap: The case for a description of English as a lingua franca. International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 1, Singleton, D. (2003). Critical period or general age factor(s)? In M. P. García Mayo & M. L. García Lecumberri (Eds.), Age and the acquisition of English as a foreign language (pp. 3-22). Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters. Sharwood Smith, M., & Truscott, J. (2005). Stages or continua in second language acquisition: A Mogul solution. Applied Linguistics, 22, Shohamy, E. (2006). Rethinking assessment for advanced language proficiency. In H. Byrnes, H. D. Weger- Guntharp & K. Sprang (Eds.), Educating for advanced foreign language capacities: Constructs, curriculum, instruction, assessment (pp ). Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press. Sridhar, S. N. (1994). A reality check for SLA theories. TESOL Quarterly, 28,

73 Su, I.-R. (2010). Transfer of pragmatic competences: A bi-directional perspective. Modern Language Journal 94, 87–102. Valdés, G. (2005). Bilingualism, heritage language learners, and SLA research: Opportunities lost or seized? Modern Language Journal, 89, VanPatten, B., & Williams, J. (Eds.). (2007). Theories in second language acquisition: An introduction. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Verhoeven, L. T. (1994). Transfer in bilingual development: The linguistic interdependence hypothesis revisited. Language Learning, 44,

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