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  • Print publication year: 2005
  • Online publication date: June 2012

3 - The linguistics of Second Language Acquisition



In this chapter we survey several approaches to the study of SLA that have been heavily influenced by the field of linguistics since the middle of the twentieth century. We begin with a characterization of the nature of language, and with a consideration of the knowledge and skills which people must have in order to use any language fluently. We follow this with a survey of early linguistic approaches to SLA, beginning with Contrastive Analysis and then several which take an internal focus on learners' creative construction of language: Error Analysis, Interlanguage, Morpheme Order Studies, and the Monitor Model. We bring the internal focus up to date with discussion of Universal Grammar (UG), and what constitutes the language faculty of the mind. Finally, to complete the chapter, we switch to approaches which involve an external focus on the functions of language that emerge in the course of second language acquisition: Systemic Linguistics, Functional Typology, Function-to-Form Mapping, and Information Organization.



Interlanguage (IL)

Natural order

Universal Grammar (UG)

Language faculty



Initial state

Final state



The Nature of language

What is it that we learn when we learn a language? If we look up a definition of “language” in a dictionary, we will probably see reference to its verbal features (oral and written), to its function in communication, and to its uniquely human character.

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