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Glossary: second language acquisition research and second language teaching
Terms in this set (114)
The relative accuracy of grammatical forms in learner language. For example, learners are often more accurate in using plural -s than in using possessive 's. Some researchers have inferred that an accuracy order is equivalent to a developmental sequence.
Research carried out by teachers, often in their own classrooms or in collaboration with other teachers. The research goals and questions are local and specific to their own teaching environment.
A teaching technique in which students not only listen but also show their comprehension by their responses.
Learning a second language without losing the first.
American Sign Language (ASL)
The general language used by many North Americans who are deaf or who interact with deaf persons. It is a true language, with complex rules of structure and a rich vocabulary, all expressed through motions of the hands and body.
An approach to second or foreign language teaching that is based on the behaviorist theory of learning and on structural linguistics, especially the contrastive analysis hypothesis. This instructional approach emphasizes the formation of habits through the repetition, practice, and memorization of sentence patterns in isolation from each other and from context of meaningful use.
The ability to distinguish language sounds, for example minimal pairs ship - sheep
A psychological theory that all learning, whether verbal or non-verbal takes place through the establishment of habits. According to this view, when learners immitate and repeat the language they hear in their surrounding environment and are positively reinforced for doing so, habit formation occurs.
Schooling in which students receive instruction in two or more languages, usually their home language and a second language.
Child directed speech
The language that caretakers address to children. In some cases, this language is simpler than that which is addressed to adults. In some cultures, it is also slower, higher pitched, more repetitive and includes a large number of questions.
A unit of language that is often perceived or used as a single unit. Chunks include formulaic expressions such as 'thank you' or 'hi, how are you?', but also bits of language that frequently occur together, for example 'ice cream cone', 'bread and butter'
Classroom observation scheme
A tool (often in the form of a grid) that consists of a set of predetermined categories used to record and describe teaching and learning behaviors.
A word in one language that resembles a word in another language. For example 'nation' and 'nation' (English and French)
A research approach that emphasizes how the human mind receives, processes, stores and retrieves information in learning and retrieving information. The focus is on internal learning mechanisms that are believed to be used in learning in general, not just language learning alone.
The ability to engage in problem solving, deduction, and complex memory tasks.
The ability to use language in a variety of settings, taking into account relationships between speakers and differences in situations. The term has sometimes been interpreted as the ability to convey messages in spite of a lack of grammatical accuracy.
Communicative Language Teaching (CLT)
CLT is based on the premise that successful language learning involves not only a knowledge of the structures and forms of a language, but also the functions and purposes that a language serves in different communicative settings. This approach to teaching emphasizes the communication of meaning and interaction rather than the practice of manipulation of grammatical forms in isolation.
Linguist Noam Chomsky used this term to refer to knowledge of language. This is contrasted with performance, which is the way a person actually uses language - whether for speaking, listening, reading, or writing. Because we cannot observe competence directly, we have to infer its nature from performance.
A term introduced by Stephen Krashen to refer to language that a learner can understand. It may be comprehensible in part because of gestures, situations, or prior information.
Comprehensible output hypothesis
The hypothesis that successful second language acquisition depends on learners producing language (oral or written). Swain (1985) proposed this hypothesis in response to Krashen's (1985) comprehensible input hypothesis.
A general term to describe a variety of second language programmes in which the focus of instruction is on comprehension rather than production (for example, Total Physical Response).
A theory of knowledge (including language) as a complex system of units that become interconnected in the mind as they are encountered together. The more often units are heard or seen together, the more likely it is that the presence of one will lead to the activation of the other.
Second language programmes in which lessons are organized around subject matter rather than language points. For example, in immersion programmes students study science, history, mathematics, etc. in their second language.
Contrastive analysis hypothesis (CAH)
The expectation that learners will have less difficulty acquiring target language patterns that are similar to those of their first language than those that are different.
In experimental studies, a group of learners that differs from the experimental group only in terms of the single variable that the researcher is investigating. Performance of the control group is used to show that the variable in question is the best (or only) explanation for changes in the experimental group. Also called 'comparison group'.
An indication to the learner that his or her use of the target language is incorrect. Corrective feedback can be explicit (for example, in response to the learner error 'He go' - 'No, you should say "goes", not "go" ') or implicit (for example, 'Yes, he goes to school every day'), and may or may not include metalinguistic information (for example, 'Don't forget to make the verb agree with the subject').
A statistical procedure that compares the relative frequency or size of different variables in order to determine whether there is a relationship between them. In a positive correlation, both variables tend to increase or decrease in a similar pattern. For example, if the students with the highest grades in French also spent the greatest number of hours doing their homework, this would be a positive correlation, suggesting that as one variable increases, the other does as well.
Critical period hypothesis (CPH)
The proposal that there is a limited period during which language acquisition can occur. The strong version of the CPH is that there are biological mechanisms specifically designed for language acquisition and that these cease to be available at or even before puberty. Thus an older learner has to use general learning mechanisms that are not designed for - and thus not as effective for - language acquisition. The weak version (sometimes called the 'sensitive period hypothesis') is that, even though the same learning mechanisms are involved, second language learning will be more difficult for older learners.
A study in which participants at different ages and/or stages of development are studied. Inferences about sequences that would apply to the development of individual learners are sometimes drawn from cross-sectional studies. This contrasts with longitudinal studies.
Information that we have and we know we have. An example would be a rule such as 'the verb must agree with the subject to form a correct sentence'. In some skill learning theories, it has been hypothesized that all learning begins with declarative knowledge. It is sometimes referred to as 'knowledge that'. Contrast with procedural knowledge.
Research that does not involve any manipulation, change, or intervention in the phenomenon being studied. The researcher's goal is to observe and record what is happening. This contrasts with experimental study.
An error in language learning that does not result from first language influence but rather reflects the learner's gradual discovery of the second language system. These errors are often similar to those made by children learning the language as their mother tongue.
Those aspects of the language which, according to Pienemann and his colleagues, developed in a particular sequence, regardless of input variation, learner motivation, or instructional intervention.
The order in which certain features of the language (for example, negation) are acquired in language learning. Also called developmental stages.
A question to which the asker already knows the answer. Teachers often ask these questions (for example, 'What colour is your shirt?') to get the learner to display his or her knowledge of the language.
Input that is altered in an effort to make some language features more salient to learners. It can be more or less explicit, ranging from explicit metalinguistic comments to typographical enhancements (bold type or underlining) or exaggerated stress in speaking.
Descriptive research in which the observer seeks to understand a group or community from within its own perspective. The research requires extensive periods of observation as well as consultation with group members to validate the observer's descriptions.
Research designed to test a hypothesis about the impact of one or more very specific variables on another variable. A strictly experimental study would have 'experimental' and 'control' groups that differ from each other only in the presence or absence of the variable of interest. In educational research, it is often difficult to create all of the conditions that permit a study to be termed as a 'genuine' experimental study. In this book, the term is used in a non-technical sense to refer to research in which an attempt has been made to investigate a single variable in an educational setting. See also quasi-experimental.
Field independent/field dependent
This distinction has been used to describe people who differ in their tendency to see the forest or the trees. That is, some people (called field independent) are very quick to pick out the hidden figures in a complicated drawing. Others (called field dependent) are more inclined to see the whole drawing and have difficulty separating it into parts.
First language (mother tongue, native language)
The language first learned. Many children learn more than one language from birth and may be said to have more than one 'first' language.
The modified or simplified language that some native speakers address to second-language learners. A special category of foreigner talk is teacher talk.
Foreign language learning
This refers to the learning of a language, usually in a classroom setting, in a context where the target language is not widely used in the community (for example, learning French in China). This is sometimes contrasted with 'second language learning', where the language being learned is used in the community (for example, learning Italian in Florence).
Instruction that draws attention to the forms and structures of the language within the context of communicative interaction. This may be done by giving metalinguistic information, simply highlighting the form in question, or by providing corrective feedback.
Expressions or phrases that are often perceived and learned as unanalysed wholes. For example, a child or second language learner may first hear 'What's that?' as a single unit of language rather than as three units.
This term is used to describe a persistent lack of change in interlanguage patterns, even after extended exposure to or instruction in the target language.
Words that are mainly used as linking or supporting words for nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs. For example, prepositions ('to', 'for', 'by') and articles ('a', 'the') are two types of function words. They have little or no meaning when they occur alone, but they have an important effect on the meanings of the words they accompany.
A question to which the asker does not know the answer in advance (for example, 'What did you do last weekend?'). Also called 'referential' or 'information' questions. Contrasts with 'display question'.
An approach to second language teaching characterized by the explicit teaching of grammar rules and the use of translation exercises.
Morphemes are the smallest units of language that carry meaning. A simple word is a morpheme (for example, 'book'), but when we talk about 'grammatical morphemes' we are usually referring to smaller units that are added to words to alter their meaning (for example, the -s in 'books' indicates plural) or function words (for example, 'the') which are ordinarily attached to another word.
A test or task in which participants are asked to make a decision about whether a sentence is correct (or appropriate) or not.
A statement of a possible fact that can be tested through research. Most empirical research starts from one or more hypotheses and involves the design of a study that can either show support for the hypothesis or disprove it.
An educational programme in which a second language is taught via content-based instruction. That is, students study subjects such as mathematics and social studies in their second language. Typically, students in immersion programmes share the same first language.
A psychological theory that uses a computer metaphor for the human brain. It includes the idea that the brain has a very large capacity to store information for the long term, but a more limited capacity for information that requires our attention. With repeated experience and practice, things which at first required attention become automatic, leaving more attention available for focus on something else.
The theory that human beings are born with mental structures that are designed specifically for the acquisition of language.
The language that the learners exposed to (either written or spoken) in the environment.
Motivation that is essentially practical, such as the need to learn the language in order to get a better job.
Motivation for second language learning that is based on a desire to know more about the culture and community of the target language group and even a desire to be more like members of that group.
The hypothesis of language acquisition is based both on learners' innate abilities and opportunities to engage in conversations, often those in which our speakers modify their speech and their interaction patterns to match the learners' communication requirements. The innate abilities are not seen as being specific to language or language acquisition.
The learners developing second language knowledge. It may have characteristics of the learners first language, characteristics of the second language, and some characteristics that seem to be very general and tend to occur in all or most interlanguage systems. Interlanguages are systematic, but they are also dynamic. They change as learners receive more input and revise their hypotheses about the second language.
A participant in a conversation
This term is most often used interchangeably with language learning. However, for some researchers, most notably Stephen Krashen, acquisition is contrasted with learning. According to Krashen, acquisition represents 'unconscious' learning, which takes place when attention is focused on meaning rather than language form.
In this book, this term is a general one, referring simply to an individual's developing knowledge of the target language. In Stephen Krashen's terms, however, 'learning' is contrasted with 'acquisition', and is described as a 'conscious' process that occurs from the learners objective is to learn about the language itself, rather than to understand messages conveyed through the language.
A study in which the same learners are studied over a period of time. This contrasts with a cross-sectional study.
The ability to treat language as an object, for example, being able to define a word, or to say what sounds make up that word.
Softening. In pragmatics, a phrase or tone of voice to reduce the possible negative impact of what is said.
Adaptive speech that adults used to address children and native speakers use to address language learners so that they will be able to understand. Examples of modified inputs include shorter, simpler sentences, and basic vocabulary.
Adapted conversation patterns that proficient speakers use in addressing language learners so that the learner will be able to understand. Examples of interactional modifications include comprehension checks, clarification requests, and self-repetitions.
The ability to comprehend and produce a second language at a level of performance that is indistinguishable from that of a native speaker.
A person who has learned the language from an early age and who has full mastery of the language. Native speakers may differ in terms of vocabulary and stylistic aspects of language use, but they tend to agree on the basic grammar of the language. The notion 'native speaker' must always be understood within a specific geographic region or socioeconomic group because there is wide variation among 'native speakers' of most languages.
Negotiation of form
An interaction in which language learners work toward the correct form in a context where meaning is understood. If the teacher is involved in the interaction, he or she seeks to guide students to find the right form instead of providing it for them.
Negotiation of meaning
Interaction between speakers who make adjustments to their speech and use other techniques to repair a breakdown in communication. See also modified interaction.
Places in a sentence where a particular grammatical form is required if the sentence is to be correct. For example in the sentence 'Last week, my brother rent a car', the speaker has created an obligatory context for the past tense by the use of 'Last week', but has not used the required form of the verb in that context.
This type of error is the result of trying to use a rule in a context where does not belong, for example, putting a regular -ed ending on an irregular verb, as in 'buyed' instead of 'bought'.
Pattern practice drill
A teaching technique in which learners are asked to practice sentences chosen to represent particular linguistic forms. Typical of the audiolingual approach.
The way we use language in listening, speaking, reading, writing. Performance is usually contrasted with competence, which is the knowledge that underlies our ability to use language. Performance is subject to variations due to inattention or fatigue whereas competence, at least for the mature native speaker, is more stable.
The language we use when we are talking to ourselves, not expecting anyone to hear or respond.
Knowledge that underlies fluent or automatic performance. Also referred to as 'knowledge how', it is contrasted with declarative knowledge.
An approach to instruction in which learners are given explicit information about the language feature to be learned and their practice activities involve the comprehension (not production) of sentences or texts that cannot be understood without a focus on the language itself. The approach was developed by Bill VanPatten.
An approach that uses detailed descriptions of the phenomena being studied rather than counting or measuring the exact amount of some specific variable or variables. Qualitative research requires extensive observation and insightful interpretation.
An approach that requires precise counts or numeric measurements of variables. In a quantitative study, both the variable that is believed to affect learning and the learning itself are measured or 'quantified'. Quantitative research requires careful selection of the measurements that will be used to represent the variables being studied.
Rate of development
The speed at which learners progress in their language development.
To repeat the learner's incorrect utterance, making changes that convert it to a correct phrase or sentence. 'Recast' is also used as a noun, that is, a recast is the modified/corrected form of the learners utterance.
A style or wave using language that is typical of or appropriate for the particular setting. For example speaking and writing usually require different registers; the register used in writing a research report is different from that used writing a letter to a friend.
The language that an interlocutor uses to support the communicative success of another speaker. It may include the provision of missing vocabulary or the expansion of the speaker's incomplete sentence.
In this book, the term refers to any language other than the first language learned. Thus, it may actually refer to the third or fourth language.
The individual sounds of the language. Contrasted with 'supra-segmentals', which are patterns of intonation.
This is a technical term that refers to differences between groups which, according to a variety of statistical tests, are unlikely to have happened by chance. Such differences can be small or large. Their 'significance' is due to the consistency of the differences as well as their size.
Leaving out elements of a sentence, for example, using the same form of the verb regardless of person, number, tense ('I go today. He go yesterday').
An explanation for knowledge and learning that is based on the assumption that all learning is first social then individual. Learning is viewed as a process that is socially mediated, that is, it is dependent on dialogue in face-to-face interaction. The claim is that direct communication, learners jointly construct knowledge which is internalized by the individual.
The variety of a given language that is typically used in formal writing and formal public speaking (including broadcasting). The standard variety of widely spoken languages may be different in different places. For example, American English, British English, Canadian English, and Indian English each has its own standard variety, as well as numerous ethnic, regional, and socioeconomic varieties.
A technique for organizing or sequencing material in a textbook or lessons. The basis for the organization is a gradual increase in complexity of grammatical features.
A teaching technique in which learners practice sentences, changing one element at a time, for example, 'I read a book'; 'I read a newspaper'; 'I read a story'. Typical of the audiolingual approach.
Partially or completely losing the first language as a second language is acquired.
The sounds of the language that involve the melody and rhythm of the language, rather than the pronunciation of individual sounds.
The language being learned, whether it is a first language or a second (or third or fourth) language.
Instruction in which classroom activities are 'tasks' similar to those learners might engage in outside the second or foreign language classroom. Tasks may be complex, for example, creating a school newspaper, or more limited, for example, making a phone call to reserve a train ticket.
The influence of the learner's first language knowledge in the second language. Also called 'interference'. The term 'first language influence' is now preferred by many researchers. It better reflects the complex ways in which knowledge of the first language may affect learners' knowledge and use of the second language.
Universal grammar (UG)
Innate linguistic knowledge which, it is hypothesized, consists of a set of principles common to all languages. This term is associated with Chomsky's theory of language acquisition.
This term is sometimes used generally to refer to what a learner notices and/or retains in second language input or instruction. Lyster and Ranta's (1997) definition refers to a learner's observable immediate response to corrective feedback on his/her utterances.
An element or characteristic that can be measured or defined. Variables can differ in different groups or change over time within a group or individual. Some examples of variables that are commonly examined in language acquisition research include the amount of time a person has been learning the language, scores and aptitude tests, and performance on measures of language knowledge.
In contrast to the developmental features in the framework developed by Pienemann and his colleagues, variational features (for example, vocabulary, some grammatical morphemes) can be learned at any point in the learners development.
A way of speaking and using language that is typical of a particular regional, socioeconomic, or ethnic group. The term 'dialect' is sometimes used. Some language varieties are stigmatized as 'uneducated'but it's language variety has its own rules and patterns that are as complex and systematic as those of the so-called 'standard' language. Among the most studied non-standard varieties of English are British cockney and African-American Vernacular English.
The cognitive 'space' in which we actively process new information or information that is currently in focus. Also called 'short-term memory'.
Zone of proximal development (ZPD)
The metaphorical 'place' in which a learner is capable of a higher level of performance because there is support from interaction with an interlocutor. In Vygotsky's theory, learning takes place through an during interaction in the learner's ZPD.
The use of prior knowledge, expectations and knowledge of context to understand spoken or written text.
The ability to produce and maintain speech in real time, without undue pauses and including long runs.
The ways in which the relationship between a verb and the noun phrases associated with it can be changed without changing the basic meaning of the sentence. The active and passive make up the system e.g. Her chauffeur took her to the airport / She was taken to the airport by her chauffeur.
The process by which a sequence of words is fine-tuned in order to reduce ambiguity and create a more complex message than lexis alone can express e.g. She work project 3 month -> She'll be working on the project for 3 months.
The person or thing that is affected by the action of a transitive verb in a sentence or clause e.g. You heard ME.
A test given during a course in order to monitor learning of areas taught.
An approach to developing students' writing skills that emphasises the organic nature of writing as a sequence of brainstorming, planning, drafting and reviewing activities.
Critical Age Hypothesis
The theory that there is a period (e.g. age 2 until puberty) during which language can be acquired rapidly and perfectly; after this it is no longer possible to achieve the same level.
Multiword verb/phrasal verb
A construction which is a combination of a verb and one or two particles. The particle can be an adverb or preposition or both e.g. cut off.
A language teaching method where language items are presented as orders, commands and instructions, requiring learners to carry them out e.g. open the door, stand up.
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