Exploring Usage-Based Approaches to Language Learning

We recently published Usage-Based Dynamics in Second Language Development edited by Wander Lowie, Marije Michel, Audrey Rousse-Malpat, Merel Keijzer and Rasmus Steinkrauss. In this post Wander explains the inspiration behind the book.

To the best of our knowledge, there is no single theory in applied linguistics that denies the role of input for language learning. Without input, as a source of frequent systematicity and a rich variety of language exemplars, children will not acquire their mother tongue (L1) and adults will not learn a second language (L2). It is on these premises of frequency, systematicity, richness and variety that usage-based approaches attempt to explain the exciting path of language learning. In this book, we take these constructs as a starting point to explore the many avenues of usage-based approaches to language acquisition, with a focus on L2 learning. Grounded in complex dynamic systems theory (CDST), the different chapters showcase how second language researchers investigate language learning from many different angles using a variety of methods for lab-based studies, for classroom interventions and to explore language learning in the wild. The volume thus clearly shows the many different research questions that benefit from usage-based approaches to language learning.

The home of the editors, Groningen University in the Netherlands, has been a centre for CDST-inspired L2 research for quite some time, generating cutting-edge publications from such a CDST perspective. This book forms a natural contribution to this line of research while at the same time being a celebration of the legacy of Marjolijn Verspoor, who has been a driving force behind the Dynamic Usage-Based approach in second language acquisition (SLA) research. Contributors to the edited volume have all been fortunate enough to be influenced by Marjolijn in some way: from her source of inspiration as a theorist, via long-standing colleagues and fellow pioneers within CDST – starting in times when generativists ruled the field of linguistics – and mid-career faculty presenting state-of-the-art methodologies, to young researchers that were formed by her as MA students or graduated under her supervision, as well as language teaching colleagues in the department who, inspired by her, implemented usage-based pedagogy in their classrooms.

We are particularly proud that the edited collection covers the wide variety of usage-based work, painting the dynamic picture of this field of SLA research in all its facets and, moreover, by colleagues at different career stages. Authors studied different source and target languages (e.g., Chinese, English, French, Spanish, Russian), explored language learning in instructed settings of adolescents in high-school as well as young adults at university, or even naturalistic contexts beyond the confines of instruction, for example in social media. Using quantitative, qualitative and mixed-methods approaches, the research collected in this volume investigates both oral and written language development, both cross-sectionally but also adopting a longitudinal perspective where learners are followed over several years.

The result is a colourful illustration and celebration of the dynamic trajectory of usage-based research into second language development, building on the legacy of eminent scholars, such as Marjolijn Verspoor, while at the same time paving the way for a bright future of CDST-inspired classroom implementations.

For information, please contact Wander Lowie: w.m.lowie@rug.nl

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Profiling Learner Language as a Dynamic System edited by ZhaoHong Han.