Negotiating the L2 Linguistics Environment

Doughty, Catherine
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Increasingly, the interests of L2 teachers and social interactionist SLA researchers have converged upon the aim of understanding language leaming processes that are engaged as a consequence of the kinds of tasks and participation patterns that teachers (or researchers) choose to use in order to promote SLA. This convergence of practical and empirical interests is well represented in a line of classroom-oriented SLA research known as negotiation studies. In contrast to the increasingly frequent use of negotiation to describe pedagogical constructs such as the negotiated syllabus or the negotiated curriculum, in which the notion of negotiation is more akin to the everyday sense of (teachers and learners) reaching explicitly stated agleement on language leaming (and other) goals, in second Language Acquisition (SLA) research, negotiation has, thus far, referred particularly to the negotiation of meaning, which is an incidental, discourselevel language acquisition process that occurs typically during communicative language leaming tasks. This paper presents the negotiation model and discusses a number of empirical studies in order to convey the unique perspective which SLA brings to the notion ofnegotiation and to assess its relevance for language teaching practice. To this end, the aims are (a) to present the social interactionist perspective on SLA in a historical fashion, tracing its early tendency to emphasize the importance of meaning and communication to SLA through to its increasingly sophisticated recognition that SLA involves the continual mapping by leamers of L2 forms, meanings, and communicative function; (b) to review critically the negotiation studies which sought empirically to establish a connection between interaction and SLA, and (c) to show how the shortcomings ofthe empirical research on negotiation has been the impetus for the promising line ofclassroom SLA research known as focus on form.
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