27.3555, Review: Cog Sci; Lang Acq; Ling Theories: Eskildsen, Cadierno (2015)

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Subject: 27.3555, Review: Cog Sci; Lang Acq; Ling Theories: Eskildsen, Cadierno (2015)

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Date: Fri, 09 Sep 2016 14:25:44
From: Jordan Garrett [garretjm at indiana.edu]
Subject: Usage-Based Perspectives on Second Language Learning

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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/26/26-4549.html

EDITOR: Teresa  Cadierno
EDITOR: Søren W. Eskildsen
TITLE: Usage-Based Perspectives on Second Language Learning
SERIES TITLE: Applications of Cognitive Linguistics [ACL] 30
PUBLISHER: De Gruyter Mouton
YEAR: 2015

REVIEWER: Jordan Garrett, Indiana University Bloomington

Reviews Editor: Helen Aristar-Dry


In the spirit of cross-pollinating ideas between different theoretical
approaches, which has been a recurring theme recently in second language
acquisition (SLA) (see e.g., Atkinson, 2011, Ortega, 2011, this volume),
Teresa Cadierno and Søren Eskildsen (eds.) identify two usage-based approaches
that they deem ‘ripe’ for cross-paradigmatic collaboration: cognitive
usage-based SLA (CUB-SLA), which focuses on the construction and
cognitively-based processes such as  saliency, chunking, frequency and the
like), and approaches based in conversational analysis and ethnomethodology
(CA-SLA). Crucial to both perspectives is that the central components of L2
learning can be linguistic or non-linguistic (i.e., social) in nature as well
as rooted in the situational, experiential and meaningful use of an L2 (or Ln)
for communication. Nevertheless, while these two perspectives acknowledge the
fact that frequency and cognitive processes go hand-in-hand with the
social-interactional reality of communication, they are not easily
reconcilable despite the shared role of use and input (Ortega, this volume).
In the view of the editors, these two approaches, despite differing
orientations to the reality of SLA, should be considered complementary and, as
such, are prime candidates for the cross-paradigmatic pollination of ideas
because of the common thread of the centrality of usage. In the review that
follows, each chapter is individually summarized followed by a final
evaluation and recommendation for this necessary and timely work.



In this opening chapter titled “Advancing usage-based approaches to L2
studies”, Eskildsen and Cadierno outline their rationale for assembling a
series of papers that attempt to explain and apply these two complementary and
necessary approaches in one coherent text. Instead of aiming for a multitude
of more disparate perspectives, the text is timely in that it studies two
complementary approaches more in-depth. The volume is organized as follows:
Part I  lays out the centrality of usage in the language learning process with
papers detailing each approach. Parts II and III  contain empirical research
papers in both paradigms. Part IV then applies these approaches in language
teaching. Finally, Ortega synthesizes the research in this volume, discussing
the common themes she finds central to the approaches adopted by the authors
and discussing the recent traction gained by usage-based perspectives of SLA. 


In the opening chapter of this section aptly titled “Multidimensional SLA”,
Brian MacWhinney sketches the main points of emergentism and the basic tenets
of the competition model described in previous work (Bates & MacWhinney, 1989;
MacWhinney, 1987) and attempts to place language learning in “a
multidimensional context, both theoretically and practically” (p. 19). For
him, this means that while learners can face what he calls ‘risks’ such as
negative transfer or entrenchment of non-target form-meaning-use patterns,
they can be mitigated or counteracted via L2 instruction. With the goal of
showing how perspectives of such a model can be useful in formulating new L2
pedagogical methods, MacWhinney outlines a system he calls eCALL, in which
learners can engage with the L2 in a variety of contexts, and which is easily
adaptable to multiple settings and levels of language use. Importantly, this
chapter establishes that this approach is complementary and even amenable to
CA-SLA models or other usage-based paradigms such as Wagner’s learning ‘in the
wild’ (this volume).

Chapter 3, “Cognitive and social aspects of learning from usage” by Nick
Ellis, centers on the experiential nature of language learning, namely, the
inventory that emerges as the learner encounters the L2 in a multitude of
situations and occurrences.  Crucial to Ellis’s chapter is the recognition
that a central part of learning is “determining structure from usage” (p. 47),
which derives from the direction of attentional resources be they conscious or
unconscious. Further, he notes that learning is deeply connected with the
situational and social context in which usage takes place as it is a
complex-adaptive system (Beckner et al., 2009). While recognizing that
associative learning cognitive processes such as frequency, iconicity,
salience, prototypicality, etc. are central to learning, Ellis also
acknowledges that the nature of language is essentially social and concludes
that the cognitive computational component of learning (L1 or L2)
constructions conspires with the socio-cultural and interactional aspects of
the acquisition process. He closes his chapter by calling for increased
integration across usage-based frameworks, which is, essentially, the goal of
the volume as a whole.

In “Designing for language learning in the Wild: Creating social
infrastructures for second language learning”, Johannes Wagner shifts the
conversation from cognitive processes and mental representations towards what
transpires in the space of shared cognition between speakers. He argues that
participants in these shared experiences, be they native speakers or learners,
must make sense of these interactions and of each other, endeavors that go
beyond the understanding of what has been said to include competence,
knowledge and identity (p. 78). Additionally, in this chapter, Wagner touches
on the pedagogical implications of such an approach, which may be
far-reaching. He suggests that since L2 classrooms are such
well-organized/predictable settings, they may not prepare learners for the
unpredictable nature of the L2 ‘in the wild’. In closing, he proposes making
the ‘wild’ more accessible to learners, which in itself can hold a variety of
possibilities for language teaching and learning, some of which he outlines in
this chapter.


Chapter 5, “Structural priming and the acquisition of novel
form-meaning-mappings” by Kim McDonough and Pavel Trofimovich, opens this
section of empirical papers adopting a usage-based framework. The authors
focus their study on input frequency and specific input characteristics by
investigating the role of priming in the acquisition of Esperanto transitive
constructions by learners of two typologically distinct languages, Thai and
Farsi. Their results do not find any effect for structural priming, and they
propose that this may be due to the novel nature of the Esperanto
constructions. They suggest that other kinds of exposure may be better suited
to novel constructions (i.e., extensive input and output practice) and that
structural priming may be more effective for incorporating low-scope patterns
(morphological marking) into more prominent cues (word order).

In Chapter 6, titled “Input and language competence in early-start foreign
language classrooms”, Anne Dahl investigates the role of input in early
foreign language (FL) classrooms, asking whether it is substantial enough to
effect changes in measures of vocabulary, sentence comprehension and sentence
repetition. The study follows similar English FL learner groups in Norway that
are exposed to different modes of instruction: one with the target language
(TL) as the object of instruction and the other with it as the medium of
instruction. In all three measures, the learners exposed to less didactic and
more naturalistic (and more frequent) English input in the immersion context
outperformed their counterparts studying English only 30 minutes per week in
English class, with the largest difference found in sentence comprehension.
The authors conclude that increased early exposure to English in these
contexts can be highly beneficial for L2 development and discuss some of the
implications of their findings. 

In “Online informal learning of English: Frequency effects in the uptake of
chunks of language from participation web-based activities”, Geoffrey Sockett
and Meryl Kusyk study the online informal learning of English (OILE), noting
that the availability of social media, file sharing and online streaming has
dramatically increased access to the TL outside of the classroom. OILE can
take many forms and is, crucially, an easily-accessible source of authentic
and naturalistic input for learners. Sockett and Kusyk discuss OILE in two
studies of French learners’ of English knowledge of English vocabulary items
in oral comprehension and another examining learners’ use of idioms in fan
fiction. Both studies find a facilitative role for OILE in the learning of
chunks and/or frequent vocabulary and suggest that the nature of this exposure
provides learners with access to more naturalistic input.


Chapter 8, “Long-term development in an instructed adult L2 learner:
Usage-based and complexity theory applied” by Karen Roehr-Brackin, begins this
second section of empirical studies and reports the findings of a longitudinal
case study of one English native speaker learning German. By combining
usage-based approaches to SLA with complexity/dynamic systems theory (de Bot
and Larsen-Freeman, 2011; Larsen-Freeman & Cameron, 2008), the study finds a
complex relationship between the multitude of linguistic, contextual and
individual learner factors which are “engaged in a continuous interplay” (p.
181) during the learning process. The discussion of the results of this paper
focuses on aspects of formal accuracy as the results are intertwined with the
learner’s focus on ‘getting it right’ and metalinguistic strategies.
Ultimately, the authors conclude that development in this case is driven by
the learner himself through his usage. 

Chapter 9, “On the development of motion constructions in four learners of L2
English” by Søren Eskildsen, Teresa Cadierno and Peiwen Li, reports the
findings of a study that combines the typology of motion constructions (Talmy,
2000) with Slobin’s (1996) ‘thinking-for-speaking’ hypothesis. By studying the
development of four learners of English whose L1s are typologically distinct
from each other and also from the TL (Chinese and Spanish), the authors find a
great deal of individual variety. They conclude that their results provide
support for exemplar-based approaches and suggest a four-stage process of
development in the acquisition of English motion constructions. For these
authors, learners’ development is the result of usage and highly dependent on
context. Consequently, they call for more longitudinal studies of L2 learning.

The section concludes with “The development of interactional competence:
Evidence from turn-taking organization, sequence organization, repair
organization and preference organization” by Simona Pekarek Doehler and
Evelyne Pochon-Berger. This study charts the development of how learners meet
interactional demands in multiple interaction types. By tapping into a wide
range of empirical studies, the authors illustrate how development entails the
ability to deploy language and control procedures to accomplish social
actions. From these studies, the authors build a “cumulative picture” (p. 262)
in which learners recalibrate, build and diversify linguistic resources and
methods for accomplishing social actions; essentially, language learning for
them is “learning how to do” (Eskildsen & Cadierno, this volume, p. 10).


“‘I told you so’: Storytelling development of a Japanese learning English as a
second language” by Anne Marie Barraja-Rohan connects with the previous
chapter by taking one specific communicative function and tracking the
development of a L1 Japanese speaker, Akiko, over a 19-week period. In
conversation-for-practicing sessions with an Australian English speaker, John,
Akiko was able to increase her repertoire of interactional resources despite
experiencing difficulties. As her command of grammar increased, her
interactions with John become more sophisticated and, with respect to the
relational aspects of language learning, Barraja-Rohan finds that the pair
built a friendship during these sessions that further facilitated Akiko’s
development. The chapter concludes by suggesting that increasing L2 learning
opportunities seems to be facilitative and that conversation-for-practicing
with a focus on social relationships can be valuable in bringing learners
‘into the wild’ (Wagner, this volume).

In “A dynamic usage-based approach to second language teaching,”
MarjolijnVerspoor and Hong Nguyen apply dynamic systems approaches (de Bot &
Larsen-Freeman, 2011) to usage-based pedagogy in an English FL classroom in
Vietnam. After viewing short scenes of English-language films with scaffolding
multiple times, learners outperformed a comparison group receiving traditional
instruction in measures of their receptive and productive abilities. These
findings were in line with other research in communicative language teaching
as students were able to engage with authentic input (Lightbown & Spada,
2013). Further, the authors interpret these gains as implicit learning given
that the students, despite receiving no explicit grammar instruction, were
initially directed to interpreting meaning as the activities’ were based on
comprehension of the scenes. The authors then interpret the results as
indicative of learners later directing these same processing resources towards
specific forms in subsequent iterations of the screenings.

In Chapter 13, “L1, quantity of exposure to L2, and reading disability as
factors in L2 literacy skills”, Ammara Farukh and Mila Vulchanova study the
role of immersion in Pakistani children with dyslexia learning English.
Results indicate a facilitative effect for immersion pedagogy and the authors
conclude that increased exposure to L2 goes beyond just developing L2
proficiency and can also be extended to specific skills, in this case,
literacy. Importantly, the authors suggest that these two points also apply to
learners with a reading deficit. They close with several recommendations for
curriculum development that should create more access to meaningful input in
the L2, regardless of the student population.


Lourdes Ortega closes the volume with her paper, “Usage-based SLA: A research
habitus whose time has come”, in which she advocates for the combination of
these two different orientations by reaffirming that there is not one single
approach that can encompass the entirety of SLA. While the introduction lays
out the contents this volume in order, Ortega opts for identifying common
themes across the volume and organizes them into several subsections. These
subsections denote several far-reaching and timely topics in SLA including
input-driven L2 learning, the importance of authentic and multimodal input,
socially-contingent interaction, ‘eclecticism’ in the ontology of SLA,
usage-based inspired instruction, the role of consciousness and attention,
and, finally, agency, reciprocity and power in language learning in the
classroom and ‘in the wild’. She then discusses each subsection as it relates
to the individual chapters showcasing the interconnectedness of the themes
prevalent in this volume. She closes with a discussion of why usage-based
approaches are gaining so much traction recently and calls for more
cross-paradigmatic work to be done in SLA.


In their attempt to synthesize two approaches that share a common
epistemology, i.e., that language learning is usage-driven, Eskildsen and
Cadierno in their introduction suggest that both approaches be united despite
the challenges mentioned in the introduction. However, notwithstanding this
lack of a common orientation to language learning, they maintain that these
approaches are complementary rather than competitive, which, in turn, has the
potential to widen the scope of usage-based SLA. Hymes (1972) notes that
language is not solely linguistic or constructional competence, but that there
is an inherent social end as is it is necessarily situated within a context.
This notion is often acknowledged by researchers working in both of these
usage-based approaches, but it is not often more than a line for future
research. As cognitive processes occur within a social-interactional space
and, conversely, since there is no interactional competence without language
(p. 6), this volume provides a much needed and timely contribution
cross-paradigmatic research which  has been growing in popularity in recent
SLA research (see e.g., Atkinson, 2011). 

In establishing that construction-based and conversational analytic approaches
are complementary rather than fully compatible, the editors and authors, while
working within the same space of learning through usage, remain agnostic as to
how such collaboration can be done as they explore different questions using
different methods.  It is refreshing to see a volume that plants the idea of
cross-paradigmatic research and collaboration without knowing  how to exactly
achieve this end. The purpose of this volume, it seems, is to promote dialogue
and foster cross-paradigmatic sharing in a complementary manner rather than
dictate or promote a particular approach. In this respect, the editors and
authors are, in fact, successful.

Perhaps the best-conceived aspect of this particular volume is its
organization, which should make it accessible to students, language educators
and researchers from a variety of paradigms both inside and outside
usage-based linguistics. The first section clearly encapsulates Cadierno and
Eskildsen’s rationale for organizing this volume as each of the authors
acknowledges the goal of cross-paradigmatic collaboration in their papers in
addition to outlining the basic tenets and contributions of CUB-SLA and
CA-SLA, respectively. Further, not only do they call for collaboration and
acknowledge the importance of how language is rooted in its usage, each
chapter provides pedagogical implications and applications of these
perspectives, mirroring the overall organization of the volume. This section
takes language use and learning, starting with its theoretical and mental
representations, and places it outside of the human skull (or, rather, the
human mind) into the social and interactional context where it can be seen in
its ‘local ecology’ (Wagner, this volume). For anyone new to these research
paradigms, this section is a good starting point, as each chapter begins with
an explanation of their respective models and how each are applied in research
and can be applied in pedagogical practice. Subsequently, the following two
sections present research papers working within these frameworks that focus on
the role of frequency and the development of interactional competence in
usage-based frameworks.

In the first of two sections of empirical papers, the quality of exposure and
the nature of input are explored in different contexts and under differing
conditions. While the centrality of input is by no means unique to usage-based
approaches, these chapters take an in-depth look at the qualities of different
types of input and the conditions under which learners come into contact with
the L2. These studies tap into some very timely topics such as the popularity
of early immersion or early exposure to FLs in classroom contexts, as well as
the increased access to multimodal authentic L2 input that technology
provides. As the study of the frequency and nature of the input learners are
exposed to is invaluable to SLA, studies incorporating the specific qualities
of L2 input should, hopefully, increase with time. The studies in this section
support this notion and tap into some innovative ways to study L2 input
itself, learners’ access to input and how learners use the input they are
exposed to in communication. 

As in both of the usage-based perspectives offered in this volume, language
derives from novel or multiple experiences which become sedimented over time.
In Part III, we see that language learning is envisioned as a process through
which learners build up an arsenal of resources which can then be deployed in
various ways for different communicative purposes. Further, this section notes
that learners do have some agency in this matter and can control the focus of
their attention and their access to interaction in the L2. Each of these
chapters summarizes the importance of learners’ participation in local
language contexts in their development and affirms that learning develops
through use and experience. These chapters segue nicely into the following
section in which the authors analyze one particular context, the language
classroom, and discuss examples of the pedagogical applications of an approach
based in language usage.

The final section contains three studies which share a common thread in that
they find a connection between the frequency/quality of exposure to the L2 and
the engagement learners have with the L2 in the interactional aspects of
communications. While Barraja-Rohan’s study takes place outside of the typical
classroom setting, she successfully illustrates that these types of
interactions should be encouraged, and that access to language in the wild
should be a focus of L2 instruction. Verspoor and Nguyen’s study takes place
in a more traditional classroom and shows how scaffolding, iteration and
engagement with input can encourage implicit learning. Especially interesting
is Farrukh and Vulchanova’s application of these concepts into teaching
specific language skills for different learner groups, in this case dyslexic
students’ literacy skills. This study supports the notion that L2 learning can
be for anyone and that quality input still remains central, while
Barraja-Rohan’s and Verspoor and Nguyen’s studies both maintain that there is
a facilitative role of iterative processes in language learning, whether they
be in terms of  frequent exposure to linguistic constructions and vocabulary
or of performing similar tasks in the language on multiple occasions.
Together, these three studies take the concepts of usage-based linguistics
from both perspectives outlined in this volume and successfully apply them to
specific pedagogical practices. In taking these approaches out of the academic
discipline and applying usage-based pedagogy in a variety of real-world
contexts, these chapters bring this volume full circle.  

Ortega’s final chapter adds, perhaps, the strongest contribution to this
volume by asking some of the central questions of the state-of-the-art in SLA
and providing the reader with some insight as to why usage-based approaches
have grown in recent years. Even before the so-called ‘social turn’ in SLA
(Block, 2003), the divisions in SLA research have often taken a somewhat
categorical approach; however, Ortega notes that the theoretical plurality and
interdisciplinary nature of usage-based approaches is not limited to the
dualism of the cognitive vs. social nature of SLA (p. 369). Additionally, this
final chapter identifies several timely themes in current SLA such as the
prevalence of what she calls ‘nativespeakerism’, or a focus on monolingualism,
which brings further credence to the notion that SLA research is far from a
field filled with discrete categories but, rather, is one consisting of
complex interactions between many variables. From this chapter, we are further
reminded that different frameworks may try to tackle different aspects of the
complex process of language acquisition, but in many cases they investigate
complementary aspects of the same phenomenon.

As a whole, this volume is particularly well-placed to inform researchers and
students unfamiliar with these paradigms as to how these different frameworks
pursue their respective goals as well as how different paradigms can
complement each other without being mutually exclusive. Further, by organizing
this volume from the theoretical to the applied (i.e., pedagogical) aspects of
language learning, the authors potentially encourage engagement with research
for teacher educators, teaching practitioners and instructed SLA researchers
(R. Ellis, 2010). By tapping into research investigating many current trends
in language education, this volume makes a contribution to instructed SLA as
well as theory and, as such, would be valuable for multiple stakeholders in
applied linguistics fields.

>From a research perspective, a volume such as this one has the potential not
only to inform usage-based researchers, but also those not familiar with this
approach, thus increasing the opportunity for fruitful cross-paradigmatic
dialogue. The editors and authors astutely identify a need for
cross-paradigmatic research and collaboration and are successful in
illustrating how these two approaches share a common epistemology rooted in
the use of language in context. While beyond the scope of this particular
volume, the discussion that Cadierno and Eskildsen start here can and should
go further in attempting to ‘bridge the gap’ and promote dialogue between
approaches that may not be so complementary in further research. Such
cross-paradigmatic dialogue can only promote a healthier field of SLA and, as
the authors note, the time is ripe for more research along these lines.


Atkinson, Dwight (ed.). 2011. Alternative approaches to second language
acquisition. Routledge: London.

Bates , Elizabeth, & Brian MacWhinney. 1989. Functionalism and the competition
model. In Brian MacWhinney & Elizabeth. Bates (eds.), The crosslinguistic
study of sentence processing, 3–73. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Beckner, Clay, Richard Blythe, Joan Bybee, Morten H. Christiansen, William
Croft, Nick C. Ellis, John Holland, Jinyun Ke, Diane Larsen-Freeman & Tom
Schoenemann. 2009. Language is a complex adaptive system: Position paper.
Language learning 59(s1). 1-26.

Block, David. 2003. The social turn in second language acquisition. Edinburgh:
University Press.

Bot, Kees de, & Diane Larsen-Freeman. 2011. Researching second language
development from a dynamic systems theory perspective. In Marjolijn H.
Verspoor, Kees de Bot & Wander Lowie (eds.), A dynamic approach to second
language development: Methods and techniques, 5-24. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Ellis, Rod. 2010. Second language acquisition, teacher education and language
pedagogy. Language Teaching 43(2). 182-201. 

Hymes, Dell. 1972. Models of the interaction of language and social life. In
John Gumperz & Dell Hymes (eds.), Directions in sociolinguistics: The
ethnography of communication, 269-293. New York, NY: Holt, Rhinehart &

Larsen-Freeman, Diane, & Lynne Cameron. 2008. Complex adaptive and applied
linguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lightbown, Patsy M., & Nina Spada. 2013. How languages are learned, 4th edn.
Oxford: Oxford University Press.

MacWhinney, Brian. 1987. Applying the competition model to bilingualism.
Applied Psycholinguistics 8(4). 315-327.

Ortega, Lourdes. 2011. SLA after the social turn: Where cognitivism and its
alternatives stand. In Dwight Atkinson (ed.), Alternative approaches in second
language acquisition, 167–180. New York, NY: Routledge.

Ortega, Lourdes. 2013. SLA for the 21st century: Disciplinary progress,
transdisciplinary relevance, and the bi/multilingual turn. Language Learning
63(s1). 1-24.

Slobin, Dan I. 1996. From'' thought and language'' to'' thinking for
speaking''. In John J. Gumperz & Stephen C. Levinson (eds.), Rethinking
linguistic relativity. 70-96. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Talmy, Leonard. 2000. Toward a cognitive semantics: Typology and process in
concept structuring. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.


Jordan Garrett is a PhD candidate and instructor at Indiana University where
he teaches courses on the Spanish language, Hispanic linguistics and Spanish
composition and conversation. His research interests are varied but primarily
focus on second language acquisition, heritage language
instruction/bilingualism, the structure of Spanish and Portuguese and the
syntax-discourse interface. Currently, he is working on a doctoral
dissertation which investigates how learners acquire sociolinguistic variation
in study abroad contexts; namely, the role qualitatively and quantitatively
different input can have on language learning and how different approaches to
second language acquisition can inform each other through mixed-methods


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