The Linguistics of SLA
The Linguistics of SLA
The Nature of Language
Languages are systematic
- We understand the principles by which the words are
combined to express meaning
Languages are symbolic
- Sequences of sounds or letters don’t inherently possess
- The meanings of symbols in a language come through
the tacit agreement between the speakers
Languages are social
- Each language reflects the social requirements of the
society that uses it.
- Language is the expressive dimension of culture
words and in
s, pitch and
•Ways to form
and for events
Early Approaches to SLA
Contrastive Analysis (Hypothesis) (CAH)
- Approach to the study of SLA which involves
predicting and explaining learner problems based on a
comparison of L1 and L2 to determine similarities and
- Got the influence from linguistics and psychology,
Structuralism and Behaviorism
- The goal of CAH is to increase efficiency in L2
teaching and testing.
- The focus is on the surface forms of both L1 and L2
systems and describing an comparing the languages
one level at a time.
- Early proponents of CAH assumed that language
acquisition involves habit formation in a process of SR-R
- There will be transfer in learning, of elements acquired
(habituated) in L1 to the target L2. (Positive or
- The CAH approach was not adequate for the study of
1. The behaviorist learning theory to which it is tied
can’t explain the logical problem of language
2. CAH analysis were not always validated by evidence
from actual learner errors.
3. Many of the L2 problems which CAH predicts do not
emerge, it doesn’t account for many learner errors, and
much predicted positive transfer doesn’t materialize.
The first approach to the study of SLA which includes
an internal focus on learners’ creative ability to
Based on the description and analysis of actual learner
errors in L2, rather than on idealized linguistic
structures attributed to native speakers of L1 and L2.
EA augmented/replaced CAH in the early 1970w
1. Prediction made by CAH did not always materialize
in actual learner errors.
2. The exclusive focus on surface level forms and
patterns by structural linguists shifted to concern on
the underlying rules.
3. There was a shift from behaviorism to mentalism in
explaining language acquisition, with emphasis on the
innate capacity of the language learner rather than on
4. The study of SLA was no longer motivated by teaching
concerns as it had been for CAH. Researchers began to
separate issues in SLA from pedagogical concerns.
No 2 and 3 were mostly influenced by Chomsky’s