Theories Of Second Language Acquisition

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Theories of Second Language Acquisition
The approaches to Second Language Acquisition (SLA for short) have been changing and developing throughout the years. Since the beginning of the study of Second Language Acquisition, the approaches and theories of SLA have ranged from the Behaviourist approach to SLA by an American psychologist Burrhus Frederic Skinner in 1940s-1950s to Universal Grammar approach by an American linguist Noam Chomsky in 1960-1970s to the Information Processing Model introduced by Barry McLaughlin in 1983 (Malone 2012: 1). The field of SLA research nowadays includes relatively new approaches such as cognitive linguistics, as well as skill acquisition and various sociocultural theories, connectionism and many more. However,
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As defined by Gass and Selinker, Second Language Acquisition “refers to the learning of nonnative language after learning of the native language” (2008: 7). Two main problems are often discussed when defining SLA: the distinction between second and third, fourth, etc. language acquisition, and second versus foreign language acquisition. According to Ellis, in many communities it is quite common to speak more than one language, therefore some learners acquire “more than one ‘second’ language” (Ellis 2015: 6). For this reason, the term Second Language Acquisition is used as an all-inclusive term “for learning any language after the first” (Ellis 2015: 6). Kees de Bot, Lowie and Verspoor note that in some definitions it is indicated that second language acquisition “typically takes place in a setting in which the language to be learned is the language spoken in the local community” and usually in a natural, non-instructed environment. As a contrast, foreign language acquisition occurs when the learner is not a part of the local community of the target language and the setting is controlled (de Bot et al. 2005: 7). However, in the paper I will not be making a distinction between second and foreign language acquisition as the difference has not been indicated in any of the theories chosen for…show more content…
As the Noam Chomsky’s centre of interest was how a language is acquired generally, his theory has rather been adapted to be suitable for interpreting second language (or L2) acquisition than intended to be used directly in order to explain it (Menezes 2013: 405). According to Larsen-Freeman and Long (1991), in his works Chomsky claimed that when acquiring a language, whether it is the first or the second, the input a person receives from the outside world through oral communication is deficient in that it is filled with “performance features, such as false starts, slips, fragments, and ungrammaticality”, as well as lacking so called “negative evidence” or information which a learner needs in order to realize what is incorrect in a given language (Larsen-Freeman and Long 1991: 389). Additionally, the American linguist believed children cannot learn a language as quickly, efficiently and effortlessly as they do without “an innate language faculty to guide them” (Mitchell and Myles 2004: 55). Therefore, Chomsky introduced the idea of a Language Acquisition Device (or LAD), an “innate ability to acquire and use language” (Malone 2012: 2), along with the notion of Universal Grammar (Field 2005: 21; Malone 2012: 2). Universal Grammar (UG for short) is a theory which dictates that every human being is born with a “system of categories, mechanisms and constraints”
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