Friday, December 17, 2010

Ecological Approaches to Second Language Acquisition

I have been interested in ecological approaches to second language acquisition for some time now and I wanted to share my reading list in case you are interested in this topic too. I have written about some of these sources before but I do not think I am going to have enough time to write my comments on each. I wish there were more sources but maybe I missed some. Please let me know if you know other ecological sources in second language acquisition. 
I typed the whole thing so there might be typos. Sorry about that in advance.

Atkinson, D., Churchill, E., Nishino, T., & Okada, H. (2007). Alignment and interaction in a sociocognitive approach to second language acquisition. Modern Language Journal, 91, 169-188.

Abstract: This paper argues for the crucial role of alignment in second language acquisition, as conceptualized from a broadly sociocognitive perspective. By alignment, we mean the complex processes through which human beings effect coordinated interaction, both with other human beings and (usually human-engineered) environments, situations, tools, and affordances. The paper begins by summarizing what we mean by a sociocogntive approach to second language acquisition. We then develop the notion of alignment, first in terms of general learning/use, and next in relation to L2 learning. Following that, we provide an extended example of alignment-in-action, focusing on the coordinated activities of a Japanese junior high school student and her tutor as they study English in their sociocognitively constructed world. We then speculate on possible uses of the concept in second language research and teaching, and conclude by restating our claim that alignment is a necessary and crucial requirement for L2 development. 

Churchill, E. (2007). A dynamic systems account of learning a word: From ecology to form relations, Applied Linguistics, 29(3), 339-358.

Abstract: This paper responds to calls for studies that investigate multiple types of word knowledge and the processes of word learning. Focusing on a single word, this three-month diary study describes the micro-development of an adult male’s Japanese L2 lexical knowledge. In contrast to most L2 vocabulary acquisition studies, this study posits a dynamic perspective on language and development. The theory of learning applied is based on Hutchins’ (1995) notion of coordination, supplemented by Gibson’s (1979, 1986) theory of affordances. The findings suggest that the learning was non-linear, shaped in non-trivial ways by environmental affordances, and proceeded through several quasi-stable states attained in circuits of coordination. It is suggested that the learning in this case study behaved very much like a dynamic system.

Churchill, E., Nishino, T., Okada, H., & Atkinson, D. (2010). Symbiotic gesture and the sociocognitive visibility of grammar in second language acquisition. Modern Language Journal, 94(2), 234-253.

Abstract: This article argues for the embodied and environmentally embedded nature of second language acquisition (SLA). Through fine-grained analysis of interaction using Goodwin’s (2003a) concept of symbiotic gesture—gesture coupled with its rich environmental context to produce complex social action—we illustrate how a tutor, learner, and grammar worksheet interact to create perceptible links across cognition, social action, and the material world in studying English grammar. We begin by summarizing what we mean by a sociocogntive approach to SLA. We then describe the mundane-looking grammar worksheet as a complex sociocognitive resource that enables tutor-learner interaction. Next, we provide extended description of the tutor’s repeated use of a symbiotic gesture to make her perception of the grammar instantiated in the worksheet publicly available to the learner. We conclude by arguing that SLA involves the dynamic, interactive alignment of learners, teachers, and their ever-changing environments, suggesting that symbiotic gesture is but one example of humanly improvised resources guiding ecosocial alignment and participation in SLA.

Kramsch, C. (Ed.). (2002). Language acquisition and language socialization: Ecological perspectives. London: Continuum.

Kramsch, C. (2008). Ecological perspectives on foreign language education. Language Teaching, 41(3), 389-408.

Abstract: Ecological approaches to language learning and teaching have captured the interest of language educators as both native and non-native speakers find themselves operating in increasingly multilingual and multicultural environments. This paper builds on Kramsch & Whiteside (in press) to conceptualize what an ecological perspective on foreign language education, based on complexity theory, and analyzes transcriptions of exchanges taking place among multilingual individuals in multicultural settings using the ecological approach offered by complexity theory. Based on what these analyses reveal about the ability of these individuals to shape the very context in which language is learned and used, it discusses the notion of ‘symbolic competence’ recently proposed by Kramsch (2006) and explores how symbolic competence might be developed through foreign language education in institutional contexts

Kramsch, C., & Steffensen, S. V. (2007). Ecological perspectives on second language acquisition and socialization. In N. Hornberger & P. Duff (Eds.). Encyclopedia of language and education (vol 8): Language and socialization (pp. 17-28). Heidelberg: Springer Verlag.

Kramsch, C., & Whiteside, A. (2008). Language ecology in multilingual settings towards a theory of symbolic competence. Applied Linguistics, 29(4), 645-671.

This paper draws on complexity theory and post-modern sociolinguistics to explore how an ecological approach to language data can illuminate aspects of language use in multilingual environments. We first examine transcripts of exchanges taking place among multilingual individuals in multicultural settings. We briefly review what conversation and discourse analysis can explain about these exchanges. We then build on these analyses, using insights from complexity theory and interactional sociolinguistics. We finally outline the components of a competence in multilingual encounters that has not been sufficiently taken into consideration by applied linguistics and that we call ‘symbolic competence’.

Larsen-Freeman, D., & Cameron, L. (2008). Complex systems and applied linguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Leather, J., & van Dam, J. (eds.). (2002). Ecology of language acquisition. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic.

van Dam, J. (2002). Ritual, face and play in a first English lesson: Bootstrapping a classroom culture. In C. Kramsch (ed.). Language acquisition and language socialization: Ecological perspectives. London: Continuum.

Van Lier, L. (2004). The ecology and semiotics of language learning: A socicultural perspective. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic.

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