Hauptseminar: Introduction to Second Language Acquisition

Syllabus for Summer, 2006

Tuesdays, 14:00 - 16:00, B 440

bulletAims of the Course
bulletCourse Outline

Professor Dr. Richard F Young

Office hours: Wednesdays, 10:00 to 12:00

E-mail: rfyoung at wisc dot edu

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Required Texts


Gass, S. M., & Selinker, L. (2001). Second language acquisition: An introductory course. (2nd edition). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.


Gass, S., Sorace, A., & Selinker, L. (1999). Second language learning: Data analysis. (2nd edition). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

bullet Supplementary readings available in the department library

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Aims of the Course

This course is a general introduction to scientific research into how people learn a second language. Although the course is designed to be accessible to students from a wide variety of backgrounds, some knowledge of the linguistic structure of English will be assumed.

Second language acquisition, or SLA, is a theoretical and experimental field of study which, like first language acquisition studies, looks at the phenomenon of language development -- in this case the acquisition of a second language.  The term "second" includes "foreign" and "third", "fourth" (etc.). Since the early nineteen seventies, SLA researchers have been attempting to describe and explain the behavior and developing systems of children and adults learning a new language.

The dominant aim behind this research is to extend our understanding of the complex processes and mechanisms that drive language acquisition.

By virtue of the fact that language itself is complex, SLA has become a broadly-based field and it now involves:

bullet Studying the complex pragmatic interactions between learners, and between learners and native speakers
bullet Examining how non-native language ability develops, stabilizes, and undergoes attrition (forgetting, loss)
bullet Carrying out a highly technical analysis and interpretation of all aspects of learner language with the help of current linguistic theory
bullet Developing theories that are specific to the field of SLA that aim to account for the many facets of non-native behavior
bullet Testing hypotheses to explain second language behavior

The goal of SLA is to understand how learners learn and it is not the same as research into language teaching. However, applied linguists whose particular interest is in facilitating the language learning process should find ways of interpreting relevant SLA research in ways that will benefit the language teacher.  SLA, in this light, should become an essential point of reference for those involved in educational activities and researchers looking at how to facilitate the learning process.

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Attendance and Readings. All students are expected to attend class regularly and to complete weekly readings assigned from the textbook and from the course packet.

For a Teilnahmeschein. One group seminar presentation of one or more articles from the readings. Regular attendance and participation in seminar discussions.

In preparing your presentation, you should ...

bullet Read the chapter and/or articles.
bullet Prepare an oral presentation that summarizes and critiques for the rest of us the theory described in the reading, and (if empirical studies of SLA are reported), describe and critique the methods used in the studies and their results. Your oral presentation should be no more than 20 minutes long.
bullet Write up your presentation as a paper and hand it to me for comments and grading.
bullet Your seminar paper should be between 2 and 4 pages long (not including title page and bibliography).

For a Leistungsschein. The requirements for a Teilnahmeschein plus ... one 10 - 20 page paper that synthesizes and critically reviews literature in a relevant area of your choice.

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Course Outline

Topic Textbook Student Presentations
Introduction Chapter 1  
Looking at interlanguage data Chapter 2 Cumming (1994) Click here to see notes.
The role of the native language: An historical overview Chapter 3

Corder (1967)

Dusková (1984)

Lado (1957)

Child language acquisition: First and second Chapter 4

Hyltenstam & Abrahamsson (2003)

Revised perspectives on the role of previously known languages

Chapter 5

Handouts on:


Negation 1

Negation 2


Selective transfer

Kellermann (1986)

Schachter (1974)

SLA and linguistics Chapter 6

Bardovi-Harlig (1999)

Eckman, Moravcsik & Wirth, (1989)

Universal Grammar Chapter 7

Kanno (1997)

White (1990)

Looking at interlanguage processes:

(1) Knowledge Representations

(2) The Competition Model

Chapter 8

Bialystok & Sharwood Smith (1985)

MacWhinney (1997)

Interlanguage variation

Communication strategies

Interlanguage pragmatics

Chapter 9

Bialystok (1990)

Young (1993)

Input, interaction, and output Chapter 10

Lantolf & Thorne (In press)

Mackey (1999)

Instructed second language learning

Focus on Form

Chapter 11

Doughty & Williams (1998)

Individual differences in SLA:

(1) Aptitude

(2) Motivation

Chapter 12

Dörnyei & Skehan (2003)

The L2 lexicon Chapter 13 Poulisse & Bongaerts (1994)

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Supplementary readings

Bardovi-Harlig, K. (1999). From morpheme studies to temporal semantics: Tense-aspect research in SLA. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 21(3), 341-382.

Bialystok, E. (1990). Communication strategies: A psychological analysis of second-language use. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Chapter 2.

Bialystok, E., & Sharwood Smith, M. (1985). Interlanguage is not a state of mind: An evaluation of the construct for second-language acquisition. Applied Linguistics, 6(2), 101-117.

Corder, S. P. (1967). The significance of learners' errors. International Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching, 5(4), 161-172.

Cumming, A. H. (1994). Alternatives in TESOL research: Descriptive, interpretive, and ideological orientations. TESOL Quarterly, 28(4), 673-703.

Dörnyei, Z., & Skehan, P. (2003). Individual differences in second language learning. In C. J. Doughty & M. H. Long (Eds.), The handbook of second language acquisition (pp. 589-630). Malden, MA and Oxford, UK: Blackwell.

Doughty, C., & Williams, J. (1998). Pedagogical choices in focus on form. In C. Doughty & J. Williams (Eds.), Focus on form in classroom second language acquisition (pp. 197-261). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Dusková, L. (1984). Similarity-An aid or hindrance in foreign language learning? Folia Linguistica, 18(1-2), 103-115.

Eckman, F., Moravcsik, E., & Wirth, J. (1989). Implicational universals and interrogative structures in the interlanguage of ESL learners. Language Learning, 39(2), 173-205.

Hyltenstam, K., & Abrahamsson, N. (2003). Maturational constraints in SLA. In C. J. Doughty & M. H. Long (Eds.), The handbook of second language acquisition (pp. 539-588). Malden, MA and Oxford, UK: Blackwell.

Kanno, K. (1997). The acquisition of null and overt pronominals in Japanese by English speakers. Second Language Research, 13(3), 265-287.

Kellerman, E. (1986). An eye for an eye: Crosslinguistic constraints on the development of the L2 lexicon. In E. Kellerman & M. Sharwood Smith (Eds.), Crosslinguistic influence in second language acquisition (pp. 35-48). New York: Pergamon.

Lado, R. (1957). Linguistics across cultures. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press. Excerpts reprinted in S. M. Gass & L. Selinker (eds.), Language transfer in language learning. Rowley, MA: Newbury House, (pp. 21-32).

Lantolf, J. P., & Thorne, S. L. (In press). Sociocultural theory and the genesis of second language development. New York: Oxford University Press. Chapter 1.

Mackey, A. (1999). Input, interaction and second language development: An empirical study of question formation in ESL. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 21(4), 557-581.

MacWhinney, B. (1997). Second language acqusition and the competition model. In A. M. B. de Groot & J. F. Kroll (Eds.), Tutorials in bilingualism: Psycholinguistic perspectives (pp. 113-144). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Poulisse, N., & Bongaerts, T. (1994). First language use in second language production. Applied Linguistics, 15(1), 36-57.

Schachter, J. (1974). An error in error analysis. Language Learning, 24(2), 205-214.

White, L. (1990). Second language acquisition and universal grammar. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 12, 121-133.

Young, R. (1993). Functional constraints on variation in interlanguage morphology. Applied Linguistics, 14, 76-97.

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This page was last updated on August 10, 2006 .