Shedding Empirical Light on Complex Dynamic System Theory

We recently published Profiling Learner Language as a Dynamic System edited by ZhaoHong Han. In this post the editor explains why the book is important.

Profiling Learner Language as a Dynamic System was born out of an intense interest in contributing to the empirical basis in SLA of the new theoretical paradigm now known as Complex Dynamic System Theory (CDST) (de Bot, 2017; Larsen-Freeman, 2017; Lourdes & Han, 2017). Much of the work so far on CDST has remained rhetorical, and while a concerted effort has been made to push for empirical understandings, methodological insights are as yet incipient, though broad pointers are on the horizon. For example, the study needs to be longitudinal, and should focus on individual learners.

Many of the extant empirical studies have, however, tended to narrowly focus on one or a small number of linguistic elements, taking, a priori, each as part of a (sub)system, producing findings that are limited in scope and do not convincingly demonstrate, in one breath, the ‘complex,’ ‘dynamic,’ and ‘systemic’ nature of learner language.

This book seeks to help fill some of these gaps, by subjecting individuals’ systems to multiple lenses. Recognizing that revealing these properties necessitates a much larger undertaking than an individual study, the book has its five main chapters each target a particular aspect of interlanguage, traversing the domains of morpho-syntax, semantics, pragmatics, and discourse. The uniqueness of this approach lies also in employing the same longitudinal corpus involving two dyads interacting over a shared course requirement. The data analyses tracked both within-dyad and between-dyad similarities and differences, yielding both general patterns and idiosyncrasies. Together, the five sets of data analyses shed light on, and even go beyond, core claims of CDST.

For more information about this book please see our website.

 

If you found this interesting, you might also like Motivational Dynamics in Language Learning edited by Zoltán Dörnyei, Peter D. MacIntyre and Alastair Henry.

How do Native and Nonnative Language Teachers Handle Pragmatics?

This month we are publishing Learning Pragmatics from Native and Nonnative Language Teachers by Andrew D. Cohen. In this post Andrew describes his own experiences of learning pragmatics as well as outlining his research into how language teachers handle pragmatics.

This new book of mine deals with an issue that has been a concern of mine for many years – namely, learning the niceties of pragmatics from native and nonnative teachers of the language. Pragmatic subtleties include knowing just when to use specific greetings in the target language, knowing how to recognize sarcasm when it is directed at you and how to be appropriately sarcastic yourself, knowing how to curse when it is called for, knowing how to make requests in a way that it is well received, and many more things.

At the age of 74, I am currently working on my 13th language, Mandarin, and over the years I have had an opportunity to experience the benefits of learning the language both from teachers who have grown up natively with the language and its pragmatics as well as those who have come to it later on as learners themselves. Clearly, both sets of teachers could have special advantages in terms of what they know about the target language and what they can provide learners. In the book, I invite readers to explore with me this issue, basing many of my insights on an international survey I conducted using Survey Monkey.

Aside from reporting the findings from an international survey about how teachers handle pragmatics, the book also includes sections on:

  • defining target language pragmatics,
  • suggestions for how to teach pragmatics,
  • motivating learners to want to learn about pragmatics,
  • the role of technology,
  • learners’ strategizing about pragmatics,
  • assessing pragmatics,
  • ways to research pragmatics.

By studying many languages and living in different cultures around the world, I have become acutely aware of just how easy it is to experience pragmatic failure while engaged in efforts to communicate with others. Below is a picture of me as a Peace Corps volunteer on the High Plains of Bolivia where I had modest success at learning the local language, Aymara, and at practicing rural community development in the mid-1960s. As you can see, I am wearing a local poncho and gorro. This two-year experience kick-started my interest in applied linguistics and provided me an upfront and personal experience attempting to contribute to an indigenous group who mostly wondered why a young American college graduate would do such a thing.

Andrew D. Cohen, Professor Emeritus, University of Minnesota, USA
adcohen@umn.edu 

For more information about this book please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Context, Individual Differences and Pragmatic Competence by Naoko Taguchi.

2014 set to be an exciting year for MM’s SLA series

Capitalizing on Language Learners' Individuality2014 has begun in force for our Second Language Acquisition series. Already this year we have seen the publication of Capitalizing on Language Learners’ Individuality by Tammy Gregersen and Peter D. MacIntyre: an exciting book which offers not only an up-to-date, accessible introduction to the theories of learner characteristics but is also jam-packed full of practical classroom activities. Tammy and Peter told us about how the project came about in their blog post last year. If you missed it, you can catch up here.

Multiple Perspectives on the Self in SLAAlso on our blog you may have seen Sarah Mercer and Marion Williams’ introduction (here if you missed it) to their edited collection Multiple Perspectives on the Self which was published at the start of February. This collection of papers brings together a diverse range of conceptualisations of the self in the domain of second language acquisition and foreign language learning. The volume attempts to unite a fragmented field and provides a thorough overview of the ways in which the self can be conceptualised in SLA contexts.

Sociocultural Theory and L2 Instructional Pragmatics

The third addition to our SLA series so far this year is Sociocultural Theory and L2 Instructional Pragmatics by Rémi A. van Compernolle. This book outlines a framework for teaching second language pragmatics grounded in Vygotskian sociocultural psychology. Using multiple sources of metalinguistic and performance data, the volume explores both theoretical and practical issues relevant to teaching second language pragmatics from a Vygotskian perspective. Van Compernolle’s book is the 74th to be published in our SLA series and we are hoping to make it to 80 titles by the end of 2014.

The Acquisition of Sociolinguistic Competence in a Lingua Franca ContextBooks already on their way to publication include The Acquisition of Sociolinguistic Competence in a Lingua Franca Context by Mercedes Durham, Jian-E Peng’s monograph Willingness to Communicate in the Chinese EFL University Classroom, ZhaoHong Han’s edited volume Studies in Second Language Acquisition of Chinese and Measuring L2 Proficiency edited by Pascale Leclercq et al. Other highlights for the SLA series in 2014 include the International Conference on Motivational Dynamics and Second Language Acquisition at The University of Nottingham which we are very excited to be supporting and our annual attendance of EUROSLA which is to be hosted by the University of York this year.

The academic series editor for our SLA series is David Singleton, University of Pannonia, Hungary and Fellow Emeritus, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland and our in-house Acquisitions Editor is Laura Longworth. Should you be interested in submitting a proposal or discussing any book ideas with us, please do not hesitate to get in touch. More information can be found on our website here.