Anglais de spécialité en sciences humaines et sociales : recherches françaises

journee-etude-aliceVF3Alice Henderson et Frédérique Freund du laboratoire LLSETI à l’Université Savoie-Mont Blanc proposent l’argumentaire suivant pour une journée d’études en anglais de spécialité en mars 2018. Voir programme.

L’expansion du secteur d’enseignement des langues pour spécialistes d’autres disciplines (secteur Lansad) a fait émerger un grand nombre de questions linguistiques (au sens large du terme), didactiques, épistémologiques et politiques, propres à interroger les chercheurs et acteurs du terrain qui s’intéressent aux objets du domaine des langues dans le cadre particulier de l’enseignement supérieur. Le texte de la Commission formations de la SAES (Société des anglicistes de l’enseignement supérieur) rédigé en 2011 a eu pour objectif de distinguer le secteur Lansad de ses objets à travers la définition de trois termes-clés « Lansad », « Asp » (anglais de spécialité) et « didactique ». Le terme « Lansad » y est identifié comme se référant à un secteur d’enseignement des langues, au même titre que les filières pour (futurs) spécialistes, et la distinction est clairement posée entre « secteur d’enseignement » et « objets de recherche », confusion qui existait préalablement à ce texte, selon Van der Yeught (§28).

Les résultats de l’enquête nationale menée en 2015 par cette même commission (avec des membres renouvelés) montrent que le secteur Lansad se définit par l’hétérogénéité des projets pédagogiques en son sein. En ce sens, Van der Yeught a souligné que le projet pédagogique du secteur Lansad mérite encore d’être précisé :

(…) En 1993, Michel Perrin (Mémet 2001 : 312), suivi de quelques collègues qui y sont alors impliqués, propose l’acronyme secteur « LANSAD/Langues pour spécialistes d’autres disciplines ». Leur objectif est d’éviter l’appellation « enseignement des langues aux non-spécialistes » qui paraissait réductrice et négative.

Toutefois, si nous nous interrogeons sur le projet pédagogique précis qui motivait cette entrée des langues dans le supérieur, nous n’obtenons pas de réponse détaillée.

Or, les liens entre projet pédagogique et projet de recherche sont plus resserrés qu’ailleurs en Lansad où la structuration de la formation en anglais s’appuie non seulement sur la recherche fondamentale mais aussi sur la recherche-action (Macaire, 2010) et la recherche-développement (Guichon, 2006). Si l’objectif commun est la maîtrise d’une, et si possible plusieurs, langue(s)-culture(s) à un niveau de compétence donné en fonction de besoins identifiés, la question reste entière sur la définition des contours de cette « langue-culture ». En effet, dans le premier cas évoqué par la Commission formations de la SAES (« un enseignement destiné à des étudiants issus d’une même discipline »), le savoir-savant, objet de recherche, est la langue-culture de spécialité liée au domaine d’étude des étudiants ; dans le second cas (« un enseignement destiné à des étudiants issus de disciplines variées », le savoir-savant, objet de recherche, est la langue-culture, au sens large du terme. Dans ce second cas les recherches sont menées par des enseignants-chercheurs spécialistes des trois grands domaines traditionnels de l’anglistique : la littérature, la civilisation et la linguistique. Mais beaucoup reste à faire pour que le programme scientifique de « spécialisation du secteur LANSAD », selon les termes de Van der Yeught (§30) et que de nombreux chercheurs en anglistique appellent de leur voeux, arrive à maturité. Les recensions de Memet et Van der Yeught d’une part, et de Trouillon d’autre part le montrent. Ce dernier propose l’analyse suivante de la situation après une recension de la thématique des articles de recherche publiés dans Asp, la revue du Geras entre 1993 et 2007 et dans la revue English for Specific Purposes (dont The ESP Journal) de 1980 à 2010 :

(…) certaines disciplines sont sur-représentées alors que d’autres ne sont pratiquement jamais, voire jamais abordées : aucune occurrence pour la géographie n’a été trouvée par exemple. A l’intérieur du vaste domaine des sciences, certaines branches n’ont jamais fait non plus l’objet de travaux : on ne trouve aucun article en hydrologie. L’écologie ne fait son apparition qu’en 2010 et uniquement dans Asp.  Il en va de même pour des domaines qui relèvent de préoccupations extra-universitaires, comme la chasse ou la pêche, ainsi que pour les métiers de l’artisanat dont l’apprentissage ne se fait ni en grande école, ni à l’université : on ne trouve rien sur l’anglais de la boulangerie, l’anglais de la boucherie, l’anglais de la maçonnerie, l’anglais de la coiffure, etc. (51-52)

À notre connaissance, il n’existe toujours pas aujourd’hui de travaux de recherche permettant de commencer à décrire ou définir précisément les contours et la nature de l’anglais utilisé par les psychologues, les sociologues, ou les historiens dans la culture anglo-saxonne. Le domaine des arts, lettres et sciences humaines et sociales est ainsi largement sous-représenté dans les recherches en anglais de spécialité. L’anglais de spécialité étant défini comme « l’expression du spécialisé dans la langue » (Commission formations 3), tous ces anglais de spécialité, dans leur variété et variation, sont pourtant partie prenante du domaine de l’anglistique.

Cette situation s’explique peut-être par la structuration tardive du secteur Lansad dans les universités d’arts, lettres, langues et sciences humaines et sociales par rapport aux universités de sciences ou droit (Terrier et Maury §31-32). D’après Trouillon (2010), il semblerait en effet que les recherches menées en France sur les langues de spécialité sont, pour l’instant, avant tout liées aux domaines de spécialité dans lesquels les enseignants sont amenés à intervenir.

Le domaine des ALLSHS est donc le grand absent et c’est en ce sens que nous organisons, en collaboration avec le laboratoire Cultures Anglo-saxonnes (EA 801) – Axe 1 de l’Université Toulouse – Jean Jaurès, la deuxième d’une série de journées d’étude visant à proposer une caractérisation linguistique, historique et socio-culturelle de l’anglais des humanités et à démontrer en quoi cette langue fait évoluer les sciences et constitue, en cela, un adjuvant essentiel de langue anglaise. La première journée en janvier 2017 à l’université Toulouse – Jean Jaurès avait pour objet l’anglais de la psychologie et l’anglais de la philosophie, dans leur variété, variation et convergence. Cette deuxième journée, que nous organisons le 2 mars 2018 à l’université Savoie-Mont Blanc, sur le site de Jacob-Bellecombette, est dédiée à l’exploration de l’anglais de spécialité dans deux autres domaines des sciences humaines, à savoir l’histoire et la sociologie.

JOURNEE d’étude vendredi 2 mars 2018
Approche(s) de l’anglais de spécialité de la Sociologie et de l’Histoire
Université Savoie-Mont Blanc, Campus de Jacob-Bellecombette

Programme

Argumentaire

 

 

 

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From ‘war stories and romances’ to research agenda in ESP didactics

A presentation at the ESSE conference in Galway, August 2016.



The European Society for the Study of English meets annually to share research on different aspects of English studies. This year there are 86 seminars on a variety of topics in the literatures, cultural studies and language varieties of the English-speaking world, including one on Teaching English for Specific Purposes (S14), organised by my colleague Cédric Sarré and myself with Danica Milosovic (Nis, Serbia) and Alessandra Molino (Turin, Italy).

Abstract

In today’s networked world where English is a basic skill, essential for communication in many spheres of academic, professional and social life, the need to move beyond anecdotal, romantic views of language learning and use has never been more pressing. Master (2005) called for the field to build on empirical research findings instead of “war stories and romances” in order to construct a viable theoretical ESP framework, while Douglas (2010) sees a complementary practical need: “defining and refining the concept of specific purpose language teaching is an ongoing task for practitioners” (Douglas, 2010). However, terminological confusion makes this is a challenging enterprise for those involved in teaching and researching ESP. This paper begins with a discussion of key terms in ESP teaching, including didactics and pedagogy, acquisition and learning, applied linguistics and language education, with the aim of defining a current interpretation. Taking ESP in French education as our example, we explore the role of English in higher education (cultural studies versus specific purposes training; Braud et al., 2015, Whyte, 2013) compared with secondary school level (language and culture versus content and language integrated learning CLIL). The paper identifies research themes emerging from a range of contexts covered in a new special interest group in ESP didactics (DidASp) within the French ESP research association GERAS. The goal is to propose a new model for ESP didactics at the intersection of modern languages, languages for specific purposes and second language acquisition. The present paper offers first steps in this direction with implication for ongoing research in ESP teaching and learning.

 References

Bhatia, V. (2012). Critical reflections on genre analysis. Ibérica: Revista de la Asociación Europea de Lenguas para Fines Específicos (AELFE), (24), 17-28.

Bowers, R. 1980. “War stories and romances: Interchanging experience in ELT.” Projects in materials design, 71-81.
Bowles, H. (2012). Analyzing languages for specific purposes discourse. The Modern Language Journal, 96(s1), 43-58.

Braud, Valérie, Philippe Millot, Cédric Sarré & Séverine Wozniak. 2015a. “Pour une formation de tous les anglicistes à la langue de spécialité”. Les Langues Modernes 3/2015, 67–76

Braud, Valérie, Philippe Millot, Cédric Sarré & Séverine Wozniak. 2015b. “‘You say you want a revolution…’ Contribution à la réflexion pour une politique des langues adaptée au secteur LANSAD.” Recherche et pratiques pédagogiques en langues de spécialité. Cahiers de l’Apliut, 34(1), 46-66.

Douglas, Dan. 2004. “Discourse domains: The cognitive context of speaking.” In Boxer D. & A. Cohen (Eds.), Studying Speaking to Inform Second Language Learning. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters, 25–47.

Douglas, Dan. 2010. “This won’t hurt a bit: Assessing English for nursing”. Taiwan International ESP Journal 2/2, 1–16.

Dudley-Evans, Tony & Maggie Jo St John. 1998. Developments in English for Specific Purposes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ellis, Rod. 1997. “SLA and second language pedagogy”. SSLA 20, 69–92.

English for Specific Purposes. Journal aims and scope. <http://www.journals.elsevier.com/english-for-specific-purposes/>.

Geertz, C. (1973). The interpretation of cultures: Selected essays (Vol. 5019). New York: Basic books.

Hamilton, D. (1999). The pedagogic paradox (or why no didactics in England?). Pedagogy, Culture and Society, 7(1), 135-152.

Harjanne, Pirjo & Seppo Tella. 2007. “Foreign language didactics, foreign language teaching and transdisciplinary affordances”. Foreign languages and multicultural perspectives in the European context, 197–225.

Hutchinson, Tom & Alan Waters. 1987. English for Specific Purposes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hyland, Ken. 2006. “The ‘other’ English: Thoughts on EAP and academic writing”. The European English Messenger 15/2, 34–38.

Isani, Shaeda. 2013. “Quo vadis? Past, present and future aspects of ESP.” Book review of Paltridge, B. & S. Starfield (eds.), The Handbook of English for Specific Purposes. ASp 64, 192–198.

Kansanen, Pertti. 2004. “The role of general education in teacher education.” Zeitschrift für Erziehungswissenschaft 7/2, 207–218.

Kansanen, Pertti. 2009. “Subject‐matter didactics as a central knowledge base for teachers, or should it be called pedagogical content knowledge?”. Pedagogy, culture & society 17/1, 29–39.

Kansanen, Pertti & Matti Meri. 1999. “The didactic relation in the teaching-studying-learning process“. Didaktik/Fachdidaktik as Science (-s) of the Teaching profession 2/1, 107–116.

Kramsch, Claire. 2000. “Second language acquisition, applied linguistics, and the teaching of foreign languages”. Modern Language Journal 84/3, 311–326.

Master, Peter. 2005. “Research in English for specific purposes”. In Hinkel, E. (Ed.) Handbook of Research in Second Language Teaching and Learning. London/New York: Routledge, 99–116.

Mémet, Monique. 2001. “Bref historique de l’enseignement et de la recherche en anglais de spécialité en France : de l’anglais pour non-spécialistes à l’anglistique du secteur LANSAD”. In Mémet M. & M. Petit (Eds.) L’anglais de spécialité en France : Mélanges en l’honneur de Michel Perrin. Bordeaux: GERAS Éditeur, 309–319.

Mémet, Monique & Michel Petit (Eds.). 2001. L’anglais de spécialité en France : Mélanges en l’honneur de Michel Perrin. Bordeaux: GERAS Éditeur.

Paltridge, Brian & Sue Starfield. 2011. “Research in English for specific purposes”. In Hinkel, E. (Ed.) Handbook of Research in Second Language Teaching and Learning. Volume 2. London/New York: Routledge, 196–121.

Ryle, G. (1971). Collected papers, Vol. II. London: Hutchinson.

Sarré, C., & Whyte, S. 2016. “Research in ESP teaching and learning in French higher education: developing the construct of ESP didactics.” ASp, 69, 113-164.

Spada, N. (2015). SLA research and L2 pedagogy: Misapplications and questions of relevance. Language Teaching, 48(1), 69.

Taillefer, Gail. 2013. “CLIL in higher education: the (perfect?) crossroads of ESP and didactic reflection”. ASp 63, 31–53.

Tardieu, Claire. 2008. “Place de la didactique dans l’anglistique”. Journée d’étude SAES Caractéristiques et fonctions de la didactique de l’anglais, IUFM de Paris.

Tardieu, Claire. 2014. Notions-clés pour la didactique de l’anglais. Paris: Presses Sorbonne Nouvelle.

Trouillon, Jean-Louis. 2010. Approches de l’anglais de spécialité. Perpignan: Presses universitaires de Perpignan.

Whyte, Shona. (in press). “Who are the specialists? Teaching and learning specialised language in French educational contexts.” Recherches et pratiques pédagogiques en langue de spécialité, 35(3)

Whyte, Shona. 2013. “Teaching ESP: A task-based framework for French graduate courses”. ASp 63, 5–30.

Williams, Christopher. 2014. “The future of ESP studies: building on success, exploring new paths, avoiding pitfalls”. ASp 66, 137–150.

 

Applied linguistics, linguistique appliquée

I am an applied linguist in an English department in France and I work in French and English on instructed second language acquisition, classroom interaction, and teacher integration of learning technologies. A native-speaker of English with a PhD from Indiana University Bloomington, my baseline references are generally from the literature in English, and for some twenty-five years in the field, I have tended to subscribe to a view expressed by Widdowson (2000: 4):

people who call themselves applied linguists should stop agonizing about the nature of their enquiry, and just get on with it.

However, two decades in French academia have given me a fair perspective on relevant research in France, and have taught me caution when discussing my field. Many key terms show at best limited overlap in meaning in the two languages, and often have very different connotations. Applied linguistics and linguistique appliquée are one such pair. I thought I’d take a moment to tease the two terms apart, but as often happens once you start unpicking you can end up with quite a long thread. And it turns out, I am not alone in finding this a ticklish issue, even if we restrict our purview to a single language:

from time to time the underlying uncertainty about the scope and status of applied linguistics breaks surface […] the issue is a highly contentious one that raises quite fundamental questions about academic identity.
Widdowson, 2000: 4

A number of researchers have looked at the term applied linguistics (and its French counterpart linguistique appliquée) from a historical viewpoint (Linn, 2008, 2011; Smith, 2015), from a contrastive perspective (Berthet, 2009; Liddicoat, 2009; Véronique, 2009), and from an epistemological standpoint (Carter & McCarthy, 2015; Véronique, 2009, 2010; Widdowson, 2000). What follows is the skeleton and links for a paper you can read on ResearchGate; comments welcome.


Linguistics applied and applied linguistics

Widdowson (1980) drew a distinction between applied linguistics and what he termed linguistics applied.

The difference between these modes of intervention is that in the case of linguistics applied the assumption is that the problem can be reformulated by the direct and unilateral application of concepts and terms deriving from linguistic enquiry itself.

In the case of applied linguistics, intervention is crucially a matter of mediation. Here there is the recognition that linguistic insights are not self-evident but a matter of interpretation; that ideas and findings from linguistics can only be made relevant in reference to other perceptions and perspectives that define the context of the problem.

Widdowson, 2000


Applied linguistics and linguistique appliquée in Britain, the US, and France

Berthet’s chronology of the field in the three geographical spheres is the subject of broad agreement (Léon, 2015; Linn, 2011; Linn et al., 2011; Véronique, 2009) and includes the following institutional and academic milestones:

  • 1948 Language Learning: A quarterly journal of applied linguistics, Michigan (Fries)
  • 1957 School of Applied Linguistics, Edinburgh (Catford)
  • 1958 Centre de linguistique appliquée, Besançon (Quemada)
  • 1961 Etudes de linguistique appliquée, Besançon (Quemada)
  • 1964 Association internationale de linguistique appliquée [à l’enseignement des langues vivantes] (AILA), Nancy
  • 1965 Chair of Applied Linguistics, Essex (Strevens)
  • 1965 Association française de linguistique appliquée (AFLA)
  • 1967 British Association of Applied Linguistics (BAAL)
  • 1977 American Association for Applied Linguistics (AAAL)
  • 1980 Applied Linguistics journal (Canada/UK/US)

(And for a Canadian perspective, see Cobb, 2009, in French and English).

 


The French alternatives: DDL/DLC and RAL

In France, the disciplines of didactique des langues étrangères (DDL or DLE), sometimes also didactique des langues-cultures (DLC), and (recherche en) acquisition des langues étrangères (RAL, ALS) cover the second/foreign language learning and teaching aspects of what elsewhere is termed applied linguistics.

Didactique des langues – language didactics

Berthet’s motivation for his 2011 paper seems to be to explore why he himself, a “didactician,” that is, a researcher whose object of study is the teaching/learning of second languages, should not call himself an applied linguist, as is the case elsewhere and was in France in the past. He is a didactician, he adds, who wonders whether the time is ripe to reflect on the redefinition of his discipline.

Recherches en acquisition des langues – second language research

Véronique, an acquisitionist, identifies “a difference in objectives between second language research, a branch of linguistics, and foreign language didactics, a praxeological discipline” (Véronique, 2010: 82).

 


Overlapping terminology, intersecting interests

On this reading of some of the literature on second/foreign language learning and teaching in different research traditions in English-speaking countries and in France, I offer the following, somewhat tentative conclusions regarding the translation and interpretation of word pairs in the two languages.

  • applied linguistics/linguistique appliquée
    Applied linguistics is generally interpreted in broader terms than la linguistique appliquée, and generally accords more importance to research in second language teaching and learning. More recent French definitions acknowledge a broader interpretation and the place of second/foreign language research within la linguistique appliquée (CRELA, 2013).
  • linguistics versus linguistique / sciences du langage
    General linguistics is broadly synonymous with language sciences, if a somewhat narrower discpline; sciences du langage is no doubt an appropriate translation for many purposes. La linguistique in French academia tends to refer to stylistics and textual function, and viewed as a branch of the humanities.
  • second language acquisition (SLA)/acquisition des langues secondes (ALS)
    These terms are more or less synonymous, though SLA is viewed as part of applied linguistics, unlike ALS.
  • second language research/recherche en acquisition des langues secondes (RAL)
    as above
  • language teaching and learning/enseignement-apprentissage des langues
    These terms are synonymous; the field is concerned with language pedagogy, including methods, materials development, classroom practice, and assessment.
    These topics are covered in TEFL/TESOL  publications and textbooks on l’enseignement du FLE/FLES.
  • foreign/second language teaching research/didactique des langues (DDL)
    These terms cover language teaching research. The English expression includes language learning and comes under both SLA and applied linguistics in the English-speaking world. The term instructed SLA is also used, though a poor translation for DDL which generally excludes acquisition research. La didactique des langues focuses on theoretical models for language teaching and recognises neither applied linguistics nor SLA as parent disciplines.
  • foreign versus second language/langues étrangères ou secondes
    This paper has not discussed these terms, but they are also a source of disagreement and confusion. Second language may be used in English a) as an umbrella term for any language learned after the first, or b) restricted to contexts where the target language is the ambient language (e.g., French in Paris). In this second case, a foreign language is one learned in the absence of contact with the native-speaking community (e.g., English in a French high school). Thus researchers often refer to second language acquisition while practitioners talk of foreign language teaching. Since SLA is excluded from DDL, which takes the practitioner perspective, the term langue étrangère is more commonly used in French, particularly outside FLE/FLES circles.

And beyond these terminological notes, what answers can we offer to the question posed at the CRELA conference in 2013:

“What, then, is the situation in France today concerning applied linguistics? Can applied linguistics provide common ground and reduce fragmentation in the field?”

First, it seems clear that this is an important question about academic identity, and that applied linguistics should not be limited to “applicationism” or “linguistics applied.”

Second, we have seen that for historical reasons second/foreign language teaching research in France has for the most part been conducted in isolation from work in second language research and without reference to the broader field of applied linguistics.

Third, it seems that connections between French DDL research on one hand, and both applied linguistics and SLA on the other, are possible and no doubt desirable (Berthet, 2009; Véronique, 2009, 2010). All three have roots in traditions of research and practice in language teaching and learning that reach back further than we may realise:

The lesson from the history of applied linguistics is that research makes a difference when the desire to make a difference is built into the research from the outset and where the boundary between university research and the world where language is actually used and experienced is a thin and porous one.

Linn, 2011: 25

 

References

Berthet, M. (2011). La linguistique appliquée a l’enseignement des langues secondes aux Etats-unis, en France et en Grande-Bretagne. Histoire Épistémologie Langage, 33(1), 83-97. [open access]

Carter, R., & McCarthy, M. (2015). Spoken grammar: Where are we and where are we going?. Applied Linguistics, 1-21.

Cobb, T. (2009). An applied linguist’s response to the linguists’ Projet de reconfiguration. [open access]

Corder, S. P. (1967). The significance of learner’s errors. IRAL-International Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching, 5(1-4), 161-170. PDF

Cultures de recherche en linguistique appliquée. (2013). Colloque CRELA, Nancy, France. Appel à communication. PDF

Fries, C. C. (1955). American Linguistics and the teaching of English, Language Learning 6 (1), 1-22.

Histoire Épistémologie Langage, 33(1) 2011. Linguistique appliquée et disciplinarisation. [open access]

Galisson, R. (1994). Un espace disciplinaire pour l’enseignement/apprentissage des langues-cultures en France: État des lieux et perspective. Revue française de pédagogie, 25-37. [open access]

Léon, J. (2015). Linguistique appliquée et traitement automatique des langues. Etude historique et comparative. Recherches en Didactique des Langues et Cultures: les Cahiers de l’Acedle, 12(3), 9-32. [open access]

Liddicoat, A. J. (2009). La didactique et ses equivalents en anglais: terminologies et cadres theoriques dans la circulation des idees, Francais dans le monde: Recherches et applications, 46: 33-41. PDF

Linn, A. R. (2008). The birth of applied linguistics: The Anglo-Scandinavian school as  ‘discourse community’. Historiographia Linguistica, 35(3), 342-384. [open access]

Linn, A. (2011). Impact: Linguistics in the real world. Histoire Épistémologie Langage, 33(1), 15-27. [open access]

Linn, A., Candel, D., & Léon, J. (2011). Présentation: Linguistique appliquée et disciplinarisation. Histoire Épistémologie Langage, 33(1), 7-14. [open access]

Research cultures in applied linguistics. (2013). Colloque CRELA, Nancy, France. Call for papers. PDF

Smith, R. (2015). Building ‘Applied Linguistic Historiography’: Rationale, Scope, and Methods. Applied Linguistics.

Véronique, G. (2009). La linguistique appliquée et la didactique des langues et des cultures: une polémique française au cœur d’un débat international. La circulation internationale des idées en DDL, Recherches et applications–Le français dans le monde, (46), 42-52. PDF

Véronique, D. (2010). La recherche sur l’acquisition des langues étrangères: entre le nomologique et l’actionnel. Le français dans le monde-Recherches et applications, (48), 76-85. [open access]

Widdowson, H. G. (1980). Models and fictions. Applied Linguistics, 1(2), 165-170.

Widdowson, H. G. (2000). On the limitations of linguistics applied. Applied linguistics, 21(1), 3-25. [open access]

Zarate, G., & Liddicoat, A. (2009). La circulation internationale des idées en didactique des langues. Recherches et Applications / Le Français dans le Monde PDF

What’s in your head? Van Patten on language teaching

In his video lectures What everyone should know about second language acquisition, Bill VanPatten attacks a number of myths about language learning and teaching. He claims  foreign language teachers don’t know about second language research findings, and so are unable to make teaching decisions based on this research.

Following the adage there’s nothing more practical than a good theory, VanPatten gives an overview of theories about the nature of language with a view to dispelling some myths. Part 1 introduces the following, then develops the first point:

  1. What’s in your head is not what you think is there.
  2. Practice is not what it’s cracked up to be.
  3. Communication is distinct from mental representation.
  4. You cannot automatically blame the first language.
  5. Language acquisition isn’t always about aptitude.
  6. Acquisition is just too complex to reduce to simple ideas – there are no shortcuts to language acquisition.

What we know about language is an implicit, abstract representation, but the rules we know are not “the rules in your head” and the mental representation is nothing like pedagogical grammatical rules (in grammar books).

  1. re- means do again
    rerecord, remake, redo – to do these things again
    Possible with some verbs (resurface) but not others (*repet)
  2. ain’t isn’t good English
    I ain’t got none versus *I’aint have any
    Even if it’s not standard language, it still has a grammar (in your head)
  3. Y/N question formation
    Does Bill study second language acquisition?
    Does study Bill study second acquisition acquisition?
    Studies Bill second language acquisition?

What speakers have in their minds is an abstract system. But these cannot be stated simply; there are no rules to be learned.

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 14.28.55

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 14.28.30

Pedagogical rules describe the surface parts of the sentence but not the underlying information (features and operations) which are really inside your head. Much of the grammatical information is actually stored in words.

How about conjugation and declensions? What people have are networks of words with connections to meanings, inflections and grammatical information.

In our heads, we have information that governs what is possible and not possible, and also networks that encode meaning and grammatical information. We don’t have rules in the sense that we teach or discuss as language teachers.

How does this information get into our heads? VanPatten tackles this issue in the subsequent video clips.

 

In support of a developmental sequence model of second language acquisition: Ellis, 2015

Researching Acquisition Sequences: Idealization and De‐idealization in SLA
Ellis, R. (2015)., Language Learning Early view

DSC04473This paper examines Long’s claim regarding developmental sequences in second language acquisition, or what R. Ellis terms “Long’s law:”

“learners of different ages, with and without instruction, in foreign and second language settings, follow similar developmental sequences for such items as English negation”

Ellis develops an epistemological framework drawing on idealisation theory in the philosophy of science (Leszek Nowak, Cliff Hooker, Michael Weisberg) which he then applies to four successive studies of L2 negation in the same dataset, from 1978 to 2011. While retaining an interest in variation both at the level of learner language and theory development, he concludes that research generally supports the developmental sequence model of second language acquisition.

What follows is my own summary of Ellis’ argument in this 2015 Language Learning article.  The references are his; I haven’t included dates in the text.

Early, cognitive models of SLA (Corder) based on developmental stages have been challenged by socio-cognitive theory (Watson-Gegeo, Lantolf), discourse/conversation analysis (Firth & Wagner), and dynamic systems theory (Larsen-Freeman, de Bot et al.).  Ellis argues that we should therefore “reevaluate the long-held claim that the acquisition of L2 grammatical features involves predictable and universal stages of development” (p. 2).

Research in interlanguage variation (Ellis, Tarone) shows that such stages are an idealisation. Order of acquisition studies (Dulay & Burt), work on sequences of acquisition (Dulay, Burt & Krashen), and developmental sequence research (Pieneman & colleagues) have variously measured the emergence and stabilisation of morphemes and syntactic forms in learner language.  Variation in the production of these forms has been related to factors such as context (Tarone, Ellis), form-function mapping (Schachter), and creative speech versus formulaic chunks (N. Ellis).  This research appears to call into question “the existence of clearly delineated stages of acquisition and also emphasize the differences in the L2 development of individual learners.” The alternative term  “trajectories of learning” is preferred to “sequences of acquisition.”

Epistemological framework

To judge these different types of research, R. Ellis asks

  1. What exactly is a theory?
  2. What is the process by which theories are developed?
  3. What constitutes robust empirical evidence?

He reviews the investigation of developmental sequences in L2 acquisition by researchers using “set-of-laws theory,” or “research-then-theory” (as opposed to “axiomatic-causal theory,” or “theory-then-research”).  Following Long, this work has focused on selecting a phenomenon such as negation, examining samples of learner language to identify systematic patterns, and then proposing generalisations about the acquisition of this interlanguage feature.  These generalisation are idealisations, being accurate, though simplified, theoretically tenable, intelligible, and empirically verifiable (Hooker).  An idealisation neglects secondary factors (Nowak) and intentionally distorts, for pragmatic reasons, or as a minimalist model  (Weisberg). For Hooker, idealisation can have a positive effect (“simplifying,” when based on correctible quantitative error) or a negative effect (“degenerate,” based on conceptual error).

Weisberg argues for multiple models to achieve greater generality, accuracy, precision and simplicity and Ellis concurs, since “theories (and the idealizations that constitute them) can only be judged in terms of the specific domain they address.”  He takes a relativist stance, following Schumann’s position that “all knowledge is subjective and reality is multiple.”  He further argues that theories can be de-idealised without abandonment.

L2 negation studies

Applied to the question of acquisitional sequences, Ellis reviews four approaches to Cancino et al.’s 1978 data from six naturalistic learners of English in their first year after arrival in the US, involving both spontaneous and elicited oral production from two young, two adolescent and two adult Spanish speakers collected over a 10-month period.

  • Cancino et al’s original analysis discarded memorised chunks (e.g. I don’t know) and calculated frequency of types of negation over time to produce a universal developmental sequence.  Not all subjects had reached the end of the sequence by the end of the study, and one was considered to have stopped developing (fossilised; Alberto).
  • Schachter then reanalysed data from another of the six learners (Jorge) to relate different forms of negation to discourse function (e.g., rejection, affirmation).
  • In the third study, Berdan conducted a more sophisticated frequency analysis to show systematic use and development of negation in the learner originally considered to have fossilised.
  • Finally, Van Dijk et al took a dynamic systems approach and through statistical analysis highlighted the importance of interlearner variation which was related to age. This analysis also showed random variability in use of negation forms for one learner.

These results call into question Long’s claim that L2 learners follow similar developmental sequences.  They show it to be a simplifying idealisation which nonetheless holds up well in the four studies examined.  Ellis argues that these studies de-idealise the theory in helpful ways, particularly for those who seek to apply SLA research findings to instruction.  (In this respect, the dynamic systems analysis does not offer an improved model.)  Since the studies focused on untutored learners with the same L1/L2 pairing, the effects of instruction, and of other languages, must be verified.  In the meantime, however, R. Ellis suggests that his arguments drawn from the philosophy of science should militate against discarding Long’s developmental sequence “law.”

References (Ellis, 2015)

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  • Cancino, H., Rosansky, E., & Schumann, J. H. (1978). The acquisition of English negatives and interrogatives by native Spanish speakers. In E. Hatch (Ed.), Second language acquisition (pp. 207230). Rowley, MA: Newbury House.
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