PLENARIES (in scheduled order)
Locating cognition in second language interaction: Inside the skull or in public view?
Gabriele Kasper, University of Hawai'i at Manoa
SLA researchers take different positions on how to conceptualize the relation between language, cognition, and social context in L2 learning. The main dividing line in the current debate runs between theories that locate cognition, including language, in the individual mind and those in which cognition is constituted by socio-interactional practices. Ecumenical perspectives are emerging as well, emphasizing that the cognitivist focus on intra-psychological representation and processes remains essential for SLA but needs to be complemented by social, cultural, and situational dimensions of L2 learning.
Based on ethnomethodology and conversation analysis, I will develop a view of cognition as an ongoing social process and accomplishment. Orderly, meaningful, coordinated talk requires that participants analyze and monitor their own and their co-participants' turns on a moment-by-moment basis. When traced back to its source in interaction, it can be shown how socially shared cognition simultaneously enables and is produced by the sequential organization of interaction. I will argue, supported by data from L2 interactions, that the perspective of cognition as a socially shared, situated, contingent, interactionally grounded phenomenon has critical implications for a conversation-analytic approach to L2 learning.
Grammatical theory, interfaces and L2 knowledge
Lydia White, McGill University
In recent years, there has been a growing interest in how different components of the bilingual or interlanguage grammar relate to each other and whether L2 learners' difficulties can be explained in terms of problems at the interfaces. There has been investigation of the syntax/morphology interface (e.g. Lardiere 1998, 2000), the morphology/phonology interface (e.g. Goad and White 2004, 2005), the syntax/semantics interface (e.g. Dekydtspotter, Sprouse and Anderson 1997), the syntax/discourse interface (e.g. Sorace 2000; Mueller and Hulk 2000), the grammar/parsing interface (e.g. Juffs 1998; Dussias 2003; Clahsen and Felser 2006). In this paper, I will discuss recent research on interfaces in L2 grammars and how this research sheds light on the nature of L2 knowledge. I will suggest that consideration of interfaces allows for a more nuanced explanation of well-known phenomena, such as transfer, fossilization and near nativeness, as well as the role of UG in L2.
Unravelling heritage language (re)acquisition
Silvina Montrul, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
In recent years, the face of traditional L2 classroom in Spanish and the Less Commonly Taught Languages (LCTLs) has changed dramatically. In addition to serving typical L2 learners, these classes have had to accommodate an increasing number of heritage speakers. But who are heritage speakers? What linguistic knowledge do they bring to the classroom? How do they differ from typical L2 learners? In this talk, I will start by introducing the heritage language speaker and by discussing how heritage language acquisition differs from L1 acquisition by children and L2 acquisition by adults. I will argue that the heritage speaker population is very relevant for second language acquisition because it allows us to address fundamental theoretical debates in the field from a different perspective, including the role of age, input and environment, linguistic mechanisms and the type of linguistic knowledge acquired before and after a critical period. Finally, I will present recent empirical findings on heritage language grammars and how they compare to L2 grammars, and I will end by pointing to promising venues for further research with heritage speakers in the lab and in the classroom.
Conceptualizing and measuring "Meaning" in SLA Research
James E. Purpura, Teachers College, Columbia University
Several language testing and SLA researchers have discussed the issues and challenges of how to measure SLA outcomes or how to justify these measures as theoretically meaningful interpretations of constructs. These discussions include basic criticisms of whether measured SLA studies report evidence of test score reliability (Norris & Ortega, 2000; Polio, 1997; Wolfe-Quintero, 1998), or whether study design or measurement data meet the underlying assumptions of the statistical procedures, or even whether the statistics used are appropriate or adequately powerful. More central to the conversation, however, are concerns about how the outcomes of SLA are theoretically conceptualized, measured, and used to make score-based inferences about L2 learners' knowledge, the generalizability of this knowledge to other language use contexts, the processing of this knowledge, and ultimately, the development of L2 knowledge and its use capacity over time. The focus of the current talk is how SLA research has dealt with "meaning" as a theoretical construct, how "meaning" has been measured in empirical research, and how considerations of "meaning" may impact what it means to have acquired grammatical knowledge or the ability to use this knowledge in a variety of contexts.
In the first part of this talk, I will describe how the "meaning" dimension of communicative language ability has traditionally been conceptualized in SLA (and language assessment) research. In this discussion, I will argue that approaches to grammar assessment in SLA based uniquely on linguistic form generally fail to support more dynamic and complex understandings of how students represent grammatical knowledge in terms of both form and meaning (Purpura, 2004). I will also show how form-meaning considerations have representational implications at different proficiency levels. Then, drawing on notions of grammar rooted in linguistic pragmatics or functional grammar, where considerations of both form and meaning are integral parts of communication, I will discuss how the "meaning" dimension of language knowledge might be conceptualized and the implications this might have for instrument design and validation. The issues and challenges of measuring "meaning" will also be highlighted.