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Toward a Sociocognitive Approach to Second Language Acquisition

Author(s): Dwight Atkinson


Source: The Modern Language Journal, Vol. 86, No. 4 (Winter, 2002), pp. 525-545
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the National Federation of Modern Language Teachers Associations
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Towarda SociocognitiveApproach to
Second Language Acquisition
DWIGHT ATKINSON
Graduate School ofEducation
TempleUniversity
Japan
2-8-12 Minami Azabu
Minato-ku
Tokyo106-0047

Japan

Email: dwightatki@aol.com

This articledevelopsthenotionofa sociocognitiveperspectiveon second language acquisition


I
(SLA), proposed as an alternativeto the cognitivismpervadingthe field.By sociocognitive,
mean a viewof language and language acquisitionas simultaneously
occurringand interactivelyconstructedboth "in the head" and "in the world."
First,I develop a viewof language and itsacquisitionas social phenomena-as existingand
world.Second, I describe
takingplace fortheperformanceofactionin the (socially-mediated)
the cognitivenature of language and its acquisition,focusingespeciallyon recent developmentsin connectionism.Third,I introducesociocognitiveviewsoflanguageand posita social
interpretationof connectionismas bridgingthe gap between cognitionand social action.
Fourth,I discusssociocognitiveperspectiveson firstlanguage acquisition.Fifth,I describethe
biases of much SLA research,thensuggesthow sociocognitiveapproachescan help
cognitivist
overcomethem.I end byconsideringimplicationsof the perspectiveI develop in thispaper.
Theorists
and researchers
tendtoviewSLA as a mental
process,thatis, to believethatlanguageacquisitionresides
inthemind.(Davis,1995,pp.427-428)
mostly,
ifnotsolely,
MostSLA researchers
viewtheobjectofinquiryas in large
mental
partan internal,
process.(Long,1997,p. 319)

essentialto understandhow theyconstitute


each other.
Ratherthanaccording
to theroleofsociocultural
primacy
or of theindividual,theaim is to recognize
the
activity
essentialand inseparable
rolesof societalheritage,
social
and individualefforts.
engagement,
(Rogoff1990,p. 25)

A RECURRINGIMAGECOMES TO MIND WHEN


I read much second language acquisition (SLA)
researchand theory.It is the image of a single
cactus in the middle of a lonelydesert-the only
It isfairtosaythatthedominant
theoretical
[in
influences
thingexcept sand for miles around. The cactus
and psycholinguistic.
... While sitsthere,
SLA] havebeenlinguistic
waitingpatientlyforthatrare cloud to
moresocially
oriented
viewshavebeenproposed
fromtimeto
overheadand forthatshowerofrain to come
pass
time,theyhave remainedrelatively
marginalto thefield
pouring down. Like the solitary cactus, the
overall.(Mitchell
& Myles,1998,p. x)
learnerin mainstreamSLA researchseems to sit
Much of what we identify
as our cognitivecapacities in the middle of a lonely scene, and, like the
environmen- cactus,the learnerseems to waitthereforlife-givmay . . . turnouttobeproperties
ofthewider,
tallyextended
systems
ofwhichbrainsarejust one (impor- ing sustenance (or at least its triggering
mechatant)part.(A. Clark,1997,p. 214)
come
in.
At
that
pouring
point
nism)--input-to
Individualeffort
and sociocultural
are mutually the real action begins,and we watchthe learner
activity
embedded,as are theforestand the trees,and . . . it is
miraculouslygrowand change.
A contrastingimage sometimesalso occurs to
me,
though more oftenwhen reading in fields
TheModernLanguageJournal,86, iv,(2002)
other than SLA, such as language socialization
0026-7902/02/525-545 $1.50/0
@2002 TheModernLanguageJournal
and culturalanthropology.This is the image of a
SLA hasbeenessentially
a psycholinguistic
domienterprise,
natedbythecomputational
metaphor
of acquisition.(R.
Ellis,1997,p. 87)

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526

TheModernLanguageJournal86 (2002)

tropicalrainforest,so denselypacked and thick


withunderbrushthatit would be hard to move
wetwithhumidthrough.This forestis constantly
ity and teemingwith life, sounds, growth,and
decay-a lush ecology in which everyorganism
operates in complex relationship with every
otherorganism.Each treegrowsin and as a result
of thisfundamentally
integratedworld,developing continuouslyand being sustainedthroughits
involvementin thewhole ecology.And thisimage
satisfiesme at a deeper level, because it corresponds to how I (and others) believe language
acquisition"reallyworks."
In this article,I undertake a critique of the
"lonelycactus"viewof SLA and offerin itsplace
a perspectivethat integrateslearners, teachers
(not necessarilyor perhaps even usuallyof the
classroom variety),acquisitional contexts (both
of situation and of culture, e.g., Halliday &
Hasan, 1989; Malinowski,1923; Ochs, 1990), and
social practices,products,tools,and worlds(e.g.,
Berger& Luckmann,1966; A. Clark,1997; Gee,
1992; Wertsch,1985). I argue thatour obsession
with the decontextualized,autonomous learner
has preventedus fromconceptualizingSLA as a
situated,integrated,sociocognitive
process-a viewpoint thatwill bear real fruitin attemptsto understandthe complex phenomenon of SLA.
In order to reach thisgoal, however,one must
start some way back. As SLA theorists (e.g.,
Gregg, 1988) have pointed out, studyingSLA
withoutfirstdefiningthe substanceand scope of
the L and the A is a haphazard endeavor.Much
of thisarticlewill thereforebe devoted to establishingwhatI mean bythe twofoundationalconas a necessary
cepts languageand its acquisition,
to
the
discussion
prerequisite focusing
explicitly
on SLA. More specifically,
the staging,sequencing, and relativeemphasis of the expositionwill
be: (a) language and language acquisitionas social phenomena, (b) language and language acquisition as cognitivephenomena, (c) language
as a sociocognitivephenomenon, (d) language
acquisitionas a sociocognitivephenomenon;and
(e) second language acquisitionas a sociocognitivephenomenon.'
LANGUAGE AND LANGUAGE ACQUISITION
AS SOCIAL PHENOMENA
Obviously but nontrivially,language is social-a social practice,a social accomplishment,
a social tool. People use language to act in and
on theirsocial worlds:to convey,construct,and
perform,among otherthings,ideas, feelings,actions,identities,and simple (but crucial) passing

acknowledgmentsof the existenceof other human beings.None of these activitiesmakessense


apart from a fundamentallysocial environment-All language is language in use, to paraphrase M.A.K. Halliday. Language has brought
manifoldevolutionaryadvantagesto our species,
allowing us the possibilityof both working
in groups,and critiqusmoothlyand efficiently
ing and improvingthem. The social nature of
language is not incidental to its existence and
ongoing use-it largely if not completelyexplains them (e.g., Elman et al., 1996; Seidenberg, 1996). To the degree that we are cognitivelypredisposed to learn and use language, it
is because as a social tool it allowed those who
originallytook advantage of it (in howeverrudimentarya form)an edge in survivaloverthose
who did not. And language as a species-widecapabilitycontinues to yield multiple advantages
to human beings.
In the definingmoment of 20th-century
linto itslogical
guistics,Chomskytookstructuralism
extreme,completelyabstractinglanguage from
itssocial settingand declaringitsontological(or
at least methodological) self-sufficiency.
By reducing the social out of language he was able to
produce an idealized pseudolanguage about
whichsome "facts"could be explained using the
tools of logic and calculus. Yes, speakersof English certainly do use question transformations-and arguablyquite oftendo not,generally
speaking,in oral discourse-but to base a whole
linguistictheoryon a handfulof such phenomena belies the reductivenessand abstractnessof
Chomsky'smodel of language.2
In fact,grammar(rightlyunderstood) is itself
a social accomplishmentand social tool. Thus, a
recentvolumein Cambridge'sStudiesin Interactional Linguistics series (Ochs, Schegloff, &
Thompson, 1996) investigatesthe manywaysin
which grammaticalfeatures both functionsociallyand are influencedbyand shaped in interactional context:
Grammar
ispartofa broaderrangeofresources-orofpractices,
ifyouwill-whichunderlie
ganizations
the organizationof social life,and in particularthe

ineveryday
interaction
wayinwhichlanguagefigures
andcognition.
In thisview,theinvolvement
ofgrammarin suchotherorganizations
as thoseofculture,
actionandinteraction
hasas a consequence
thatmattersofgreatmoment
are missedifgrammar's
order
is exploredas entirely
contained
within
a single,selfenclosedorganization.
Grammar's
andeffiintegrity
cacyareboundup withitsplaceinlargerschemesof
ofhumanconduct,and withsocialinorganization
teraction
in particular.3
(p. 3)

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DwightAtkinson

527

More specifically,the authors in this volume


investigatehow "grammarorganizessocial interaction" (p. 33; e.g., how grammaticalstructure
contributesto conversationalturn-taking);how
"social interactionorganizes grammar" (p. 36;
e.g., how grammaticalstructurevaries,changes,
and is emergentacross social settingsand sociohistoricaltime); and how "grammaris a mode of
social interaction"(p. 38; e.g., how people coconstructutterancesusing grammaras a shared
resource).
Beyondgrammar,a briefsamplingof phenomena which socially-orientedlinguists have attemptedto account for-and which,I would argue, deserve a central place in any valid,
comprehensiveapproach to language and itsacquisition-include:
1. Politeness,
and presentation
A
identity,
of
mainmajor use of language is to negotiateand self.
tain relationshipsbetweenpeople. This includes
its central role in presentingand performing
identities,or sociallyexpressiveversionsof the
self (e.g., Brown & Levinson, 1987; Gee, 1990;
Goffman,1959; Peirce, 1995; Tannen, 1986).
2. Perspective
takingand contextualization
cueing.
All language in use incorporatesmarkersof how
it is to be interpreted (e.g., Gumperz, 1982;
Quirk, Greenbaum, Leech, & Svartvik,1985).
Thus, the stringI hateyou,while not devoid of
(socially-structured)lexical and grammatical
meaning,would usuallybe incomprehensibleas
a spoken utterancewithoutat least some of the
following(which typicallyco-occur): intonation,
loudness, voice quality,and emphasis (but see
nextpoint).4
3. Language-in-context.
Of centralimportanceto
a trulysocial understandingof language is what
else goes on vis-a-visthe languaging event that
contributesto itssituatedsignificance.To complicate usefullythe example given to support the
previouspoint,ifthe I hateyouis accompanied by
a passionateembrace,changes in the intonation
contour maynot be needed to gauge the intent
of the statement.Language never occurs apart
froma rich set of situational/sociocultural/historical/existential
correlates,and to separate it
out artificially
is to denature it. Recent research
on the complex implicatednessof speech with
gesturalsystems,eye gaze and head movement,
bodilyorientation,and the manipulationof objects (e.g., Goodwin,2000; Goodwin& Goodwin,
1992; Kendon, 1992; McNeill, 2000; Ochs et al.,
1996) is highlysuggestivein this regard. Discourse analystsand anthropologists(e.g., Fairclough, 1992; Gee, 1990; Hutchins, 1995;

Pennycook,1994, 1998; Street,1984, 1993) have


also dealt withthe profoundsociohistoricalimbricationof writtenand spoken language in systems of social and cultural practice,hierarchy,
professionalspecialization,and power.
4. Turn-taking,
and opporstructures,
participation
structures.
The mechanismsand ideologies
tunity
is soby which participationin language activity
cially apportioned are central to the notion of
language as a social phenomenon (e.g., Sacks,
Schegloff,& Jefferson,1974). They also vary
markedlyaccording to cultural norms of lanofpowerin society
guage use and thedistribution
(e.g., Bourdieu, 1991; Edelsky1981; McDermott,
1988; Ochs, 1988a; Philips,1983; Tannen, 1993;
Tannen & Saville-Troike,
1985).
5. Speechas an interactional
A
accomplishment.
number of scholars (e.g., Goodwin, 1986, 1987,
2000; Lerner, 1996; Ochs, Schieffelin,& Platt,
1979) have shown how oral language is structured across individuals,rather than by individuals operating autonomously.A persistent
contentionhas been thattheindividualis not the
appropriateunit of analysiswhen examininglanguage and associatedbehaviorfroma trulysocial
point of view (e.g., Bakhtin,1990; Rogoff,1990,
1998).
6. Social indexicality.
Overlappingand possibly
subsumingseveralof the categoriesalreadymentioned, the notion of indexicality,
broadly conuse oflanguage
strued,suggeststhe all-important
to orientoneselfand othersin the (socially-mediated) world.Far beyondthe perceivedodditiesof
traditionalindexicals-e.g., personal pronouns
and deictic expressions-social indexicalitysees
virtuallyall linguisticreferringsas underspecifled, and, therefore,as takingtheirmeaning as
much fromtheircontextual(and sociocontextually-construed)
surroundingsas fromtheirliteral
sense (Hanks, 1996; Ochs, 1990, 1992, 1996).
Other phenomena that a valid approach to
would have to account for,
language-in-the-world
but which cannot be explicated here, include:
social knowledgeof and participationin speech
events,sociolinguistic(including register)variation, and the organization and "addressivity"
(Bakhtin, 1990) of discourse. None of the linguisticfeaturesor functionsmentioned to this
point should be considered add-ons to a basic
frameworkforunderstandinglanguage-on the
contrary,theycomprise part of the core set of
phenomena thatsuch a frameworkneeds to explain.
Just as surelyas language is social, so is its
acquisition.As withother social practices,new-

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TheModernLanguageJournal86 (2002)

borns are activelyinducted into "languaging"


(Becker,1988) fromday one, or almostcertainly
before (Foster, 1990; Locke, 1993, 1995). This
is not to suggestthatinfantsare not cognitively
predisposed to language-relatedphenomenato human voices and faces (e.g., Bower &
Wishart,1979; Eimas, 1975), forinstance,or pronounced intonationcontours (Snow, 1995)-or
that children themselvesare anythingless than
active participantsin the firstlanguage (L1) acquisition process. What it does suggest is that
such cognitivepotentials are realized in (and
such dynamic actors supported by) extremely
rich, nurturingsocial activitiesand contexts.
of the
Quite opposed to the Chomskyan"poverty
stimulus"argument,a firstprinciple of L1 acquisition should thereforebe therichnessof the
that is, the deep, multiplexembedding
context,
of language activitiesin the lush social world
thatsurroundsmostchildren,and which,in the
wordsof Bourdieu (1991), "insteadof tellingthe
child what he [sic] must do, tells him what he
is, and thus leads him to become durablywhat
he has to be" (p. 52). Thus, whereas communicativeintentionality
as we know it cannot be attributed to newborns and early infants,
caregiversoften interprettheirbehaviorsas intentional(Foster,1990; Smith,1988) and act on
that basis. As Newson (1979, cited in Foster
1990) expressed it: "Human babies become human beings because theyare treated as if they
alreadywerehumanbeings[italicsadded]" (p. 16).
A second principle of L1 acquisition should
thereforebe thesocial input (or insertion--Gee,
1995) principle.In opposition to the notion of
input as linguisticinformationpresentedto and
activatingthe language learningautomaton(i.e.,
the lonelycactus view), inputis used here to denote thatthe child herselfis input/insertedinto
an ongoing streamof social interactionthatsupports her language developmentat everyturn.
Gee (1995) generalized his nearlyidentical "insertionprinciple"of L1 acquisitionto all kindsof
complex learning:

ritualized.
Rituals"freeze"
forthelearner's
meaning
observation.
(p. 336)
Thepublic
The meanings
ofthepartsofnew
principle:
whether
words,visualsymbols,
actions,or
systems,
be rendered
objectsmustinitially
publicandovert,
so
thatthelearnercan see theconnection
between
the
Andthisis done,in
signsand theirinterpretations.
first
and otherformsof learnlanguageacquisition
ing,bythewaysin whichwords,actions,and social
interaction
areintegrally
intertwined.
(p. 337)
Thecontext-variability
In learning
thepartsof
principle:
a newsystem,
thelearnerwillinitially
tiemeanings
to
contexts
or experiences.
specific
wider
Appreciating
ofhavingmultiple
meaningis a matter
experiences,
not (just)learning"generalrules,"and mastery
reatvarying
so as to
quirespractice
aspectsofmeaning
fitthemto thecontextof use. Peoplewho
actively
knowonly"general
andcannotvarythese
meanings"
in contextneitherknowthe system,
nor are they
itin a usefulway.(p. 346)
acquiring

A substantialliteratureon child language socialization now exists that details the manifold,
diversewaysin whichlanguage is shaped forand
byacquirersinto the dynamic,creativesocial signifyingsystemthat it is. The basic assumption
underlyingsocializationin general is that "children come to share the world view [and social
practices] of their communitythroughthe arrangementsand interactionsin which theyare
involved,whetheror not such arrangementsand
interactionsare intended to instructthem" (Rogoff,1990, p. 98). Consequently,earlylanguage
socializationstudiesfocus on language learned
"throughintensive. . . contactunder conditions
allowingmaximumfeedback such as we find in
home and peer settings"(Gumperz, 1982, p.
139). Giventhehighlyactivestimulus-seeking
natureofchildren,thismakesthe "conservative
[ly]"
estimated12,000-15,000hours of intensivecontactbetweenaveragecaregiversand childrenover
theirfirstyearstogether(Larsen-Freeman,1991,
p. 336; forsimilarestimatessee N. C. Ellis, 1998;
McLaughlin,1987) a period in whicha seemingly
can
impossible amount of learning-in-context
takeplace.
Theinsertion
Efficacious
principle:
learningof a new
Althoughlanguage is clearlyinternalizedin a
is a processinvolving
complexsystem
sociallysup- sense during L1 acquisition,however,it never
insertion
intoan activity
that
portedand scaffolded
ceases to be part of the learner-as-socialmemone doesnotyetunderstand.
(p. 336)
ber's set of interactively
constructedsocial tools,
Gee (1995) also described additional princi- practices,and experiences,and, in thiswayand
ples by which L1 acquisitiontakes place vis-a-vis others,continuesto be held jointlywiththe social world. In fact,I will argue below that too
itsrichsocial environment.Among themare:
much has been made of the internal/external
Theroutine
intoan activity opposition-the divisionbetween the cognizing
principle:
Earlyinsertion
onedoesnotyetunderstand
thattheactivity individualand the social (or socially-mediated)
requires
be to a certainextentrepeatedand routinized
or
world.

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DwightAtkinson

529

LANGUAGE AND LANGUAGE ACQUISITION


AS COGNITIVE PHENOMENA
To say thatlanguage is social is in no sense to
denythatit is also cognitive.Humans have evolubrains,and language,
tionarilyhighly-developed
to some substantialdegree, is storedin, comprehended by,produced by,and thereforereflects
the basic design featuresof the human brain. In
fact,thehumancognitiveapparatusis muchmore
of a virtuosolanguage performerthanrathercutand-driedfunctionalportrayals
allow (altypically
as
will
be
further
below,itsefthough,
explained
fectiveperformancecan onlytakeplace byvirtue
of a rich,interactive
fundof social knowledge,in
a rich social/interactional
context).Thus, in the
act of conversing,we not onlystoreand retrieve
linguisticand contextualinformation"online"almostinstantaneously
and normallywithgreataccuracy,but we also produce,comprehend,monitorour productionand comprehension,plan our
nextcontribution,
and performmyriadotheroperations(e.g., adopt variouspolitenessstrategies,
negotiateturn-taking,
anticipatewhatothersare
going to say,integratedifferentmodes of language and symbolsystemuse suchas reading,gesturing,eyegaze, and bodyorientationwithspeaking) virtuallyall at the same time. It is small
wonderthenthatsome psychologists
have begun
to redefineintelligencein termsof the amazing
thingsall (or at least many) humans do cognitively--including,notably,in their use of language-rather than in termsof intelligencemeasureswhichplace individualsin rigidhierarchies
of differenceand deficit(Scribner& Cole, 1981;
cf.Gee, 1990; Gould, 1981).
Several recent cognitivetheoriesof language
and grammarhavepresentedinteresting
contrasts
to Chomskyanlinguisticsin the importantroles
theygivetocontextand use. Thus,Hopper (1988)
coined the term emergent
to describe a
grammar
viewof grammaras "a vaguelydefinedsetof sedimented (i.e., [more or less] grammaticized)recurrentpartialswhosestatusis constantly
beingrenegotiatedand whichcannot be distinguishedin
fromstategiesforbuildingdiscourses"(p.
principle
118). He wenton to give evidence fromwritten
Malay of the wayssuch discoursephenomena as
foregroundingand backgroundingsubstantially
shape the grammarthat is used to enact them.
Other scholarsproposingcognitively
focusedbut
context-driven
and noncomponentialapproaches
to grammaticalknowledgeinclude Becker (1979;
1988), Langacker (1987), C.J. Fillmore,Kay,and
O'Connor (1988), and Seidenberg (1996). Their
theoriesall havein commonthenotionthatgram-

mar does not representa single,logical, a priori


systemwhosebasic existenceand implementation
for communicativepurposes is irrelevantto its
cognitivestatus.
Language acquisitionas well is obviouslya cognitivephenomenon.Cognitionand language develop hand in hand in earlychildhood,and less
intothelateryears-in severalimpordramatically
tantsenses theirdevelopmentneverceases (e.g.,
Kemper,1987). Cognitivepredispositionstoward
learningand usinglanguage (Foster,1990; Locke,
1993, 1995) are clearlyalso presentat the beginning of life-infants trulydo seem to come
equipped witheither linguisticprotoknowledge
already built in, or cognitivesystemsprimed to
learn an amazingamountlinguistically
in a short
time. Operating principles,parameter setting,
bootstrapping,and child-directedspeech are all
attemptsto accountforthe incredibleamountof
language awarenesschildrendisplayearlyin life,
and forhowtheyso quicklycomplexify
it.
One recent cognitiveattemptto explain Li
acquisitionis connectionism
(e.g., Plunkett,1995;
Rumelhart& McClelland, 1986; cf. N. C. Ellis,
1998). Connectionisttheories depend on the
computationalmodelingof language (and other
kinds of) learning via the gradual buildup of
richlyinternetworkedassociation potentials at
the neural levelwhichare selectively
and simultaneouslyactivatedin specificpatternsto perform
cognitiveactivities,including language production and comprehension.5ConnectionistL1 acquisitionmodels appear to account forhow various complex language systems such as the
English past tense verb-markingsystem (e.g.,
Plunkett & Marchman, 1993; Rumelhart &
McClelland,1986) can be learned overtimewithout assuming innate linguisticknowledge. Although much efforthas gone into establishing
the modeling of thisparticulargrammaticalsystem as a paradigm example of connectionism's
power, connectionistresearchers have investigated other linguisticdomains as well. Thus, Elman (1992) and others have modeled connectionist systemsthat correctlyassign syntactic
categorylabels afterexposure to a range of syntactic strings,and Stemberger (1992) "has offered a connectionistmodel as a plausible account of the characteristics
of child phonology"
(Leonard, 1995, p. 590).
A major strengthof connectionistapproaches
to L1 acquisition is that, unlike their innatist
counterparts,theyappear to account forempirically determinedhallmarksof the acquisitional
process.These hallmarksinclude: in the acquisition of the lexicon, semanticoverextensionand

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TheModernLanguageJournal86 (2002)

underextension (e.g., Barrett,1995; Gruendel,


1977) and the "vocabularyburst"oftenseen in
children during their second year (e.g., Bates,
Dale, & Thal, 1995; Nelson, 1973); overgeneralization of past tense verb endings (e.g., Brown,
1973; Marchman& Bates,1994); the comprehension-productionlag in language acquisition(e.g.,
E. V. Clark,1983; Plunkett,1995); and U-shaped
growthin a numberof areas (e.g., Brown,1973;
Plunkett,1995).
Justas importantly,
perhaps,connectionistresearchershave modeled interdomain
language acquisition.Thus, Bates et al. (1995) discussedthe
efficacyof connectionismin accountingfor the
"continuity
hypothesis"(cf.Foster,1990) relating
early lexical developmentto early grammatical
developmentin English.Theypointedout thatin
the past tense morphology-learning
simulations
mentionedabove thereis "temporalasynchrony"
betweenthe acquisitionof discretelexical forms
and the emergenceof a rule-likesystemthatcorrectlyassigns past tense inflectionalendings to
previouslyunseen verbs:

to keep themseparate.In actual fact,however,a


degrowingnumberof linguists,anthropologists,
and language acquisivelopmentalpsychologists,
tion researchersdo not accept such a dichotomy
(e.g., Gee, 1990, 1992; Halliday, 1978; Hanks,
1996; Lave & Wenger,1991; Ochs, 1992, 1996;
Rogoff,1990).6Along withthese scholars,I considerthe social and cognitiveaspectsof language
to have co-evolved from the beginning, and
thereforeto functioninterdependently--if
not
inseparably.In thissection,I will tryto describe
how the social and the cognitiveworktogetherin
thisway.
A numberoflinguisticphenomena can, in fact,
only be accounted for if the cognizingindividual's linguisticknowledgeis seen to be abettedby,
actuated within,and broadlycontinuouswitha
rich social context.Researchers(e.g., Goodwin,
1986, 1987; Lerner, 1993, 1996; Ochs et al.,
1979), for example, have described the interactional accomplishmentof propositions
acrossindividuals-the remarkableabilityof individualsto
contributejointly to the expression of a single
idea or action. Such a featis possibleonlyin the
In theearlystagesoflearning,
thesystem
appearsto
presenceofjointcognition-aformof intersubjeclearneach mappingfrompresentto pasttenseby
createdand maintainedon thebasisofboth
tivity
tonovellexicalforms....
rote,withnogeneralization
shared
(and highly-articulated)
cognitiveknowlAs instances
ofpresent/past
tensemappingaccumuof theactivity
in, and a world
edge
being
engaged
nonlinear
are
observed:
late,somedramatic
changes
a social purpose,a conventherateoflearning
accelerates
markedly,
overgener- thatgivessuch activity
alizationerrorsstarttoappear,and thesystem
starts tionalshape (e.g., a participationstructure),and
to providea defaultmappingto novelitems.... Suan approximatelyagreed-uponmeans of linguisthe network
behavesas thoughit has
ticexpression.
perficially,
switched
fromone mode of learning(rote) to anconversation
Amongsocially-oriented
linguists,
other(rule).Andyetthereareno structural
discon- is
considered
the
frequently
paradigmspeech actinuities
in thesystem
or in theone-verb-at-aitself,
withinthehuman language-making
tivity
capacity
timenatureoftheinput.... Simply
put,grammatical
(e.g., Ochs et al., 1996). One of the foremost
do notarise
(i.e.,rulelike
generalizations
behaviors)
characteristics
ofconversationis itsjointly-accomuntilthissystem
has acquiredenoughinstancesto
whetherwithinor across utternature,
Whenthe requisite plished
supportthosegeneralizations.
numberof items has been acquired,dramatic ances. Thus, topicnominationbyone partyoften
a singlesystem. leads to multipleutteranceson the topic (which
changescan takeplace,evenwithin
itselfmay be subtlynegotiatedand modifiedin
(Batesetal., 1995,pp. 118-119)
theinteraction)byboththenominatorand other
Connectionistapproaches to language acquisiparties,leading eventuallyto the expressionof a
tionthushave the potentialto tellus much about
broadly-shared
perspective,if onlyfor the durathe cognitivemechanismsimplicatedin L1 acquition of the interaction (e.g., Goodwin, 1981,
sition.In addition,theyhave characteristics-to
1986, 1987). Likewise,conversationalstorytelling
be discussedin the followingtwosectionsof this
is a highlyco-constructedsociocognitiveactivity,
article-that allow the cognitiveand social aswith differentparties exercisinginfluenceover
pects of language use and acquisitionto be tied
the story'scourse through their responses, by
much more closelytogetherthan previously.
or
sharingmore activelyin its co-construction,
even by takingit over as it proceeds (Goodwin,
1986, 1987; Mandelbaum, 1987).7 The effective
LANGUAGE AS A SOCIOCOGNITIVE
use of anylanguage,in fact,cruciallyassumesthe
PHENOMENON
develpreexistenceand interactionally-achieved
In describingthesocial and cognitiveattributes opment of shared sociocognitive perspecof language to thispoint,I have purposelytried
tives-thus a basic preconditionforeffective
lin-

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531

guisticreference(e.g., nominal,deictic,or definite reference-H. H. Clark & Marshall, 1981;


H. H. Clark & Wilkes-Gibbs,1986) is that language users activelyco-constructand adopt a
common referentialground (Hanks, 1996).8
It is necessaryat thispoint to considerin more
detail how the cognizingindividualand the soand mediatedworldmaketheir
cially-constructed
integratedcontributionsto linguisticactivityin
thatworld.In order to do so, I willadopt a connectionistunderstandingof cognition,but one
thatextendsratherdirectlyinto the social world,
and vice versa.My account substantially
follows
thatof Gee (1992).
As described previously,connectionismposits
thatmeaning/knowledgeexistslargelyin potentialformin the human cognitiveapparatus.That
is, rather than having prebuilt cognitivestructures,or schemas stored in the brain, all that
existsis the potentialfor such structuresto be
formedbasicallyonline throughthe activationof
various networksof neural associations. Thus,
meaning (or itsmaterialsubstrate)is distributed
across a large number of neurons,all of which
have varyingprobabilitiesof firingin concert
withother neurons,depending both on the natureof the input stimulusand on whathas been
experienced in the past-and thuswhatconnections have been previouslytrained/socializedto
activate together.For instance, while walking
along a New England countryroad on a sunny
summerday,a passing stranger's"Hi!" or "Nice
weatherwe're having"-suitablyaccompanied by
eyecontact,a smile,a certainaffective
disposition
(at least to the extent of desiringto communicate), theorientationof thespeaker'sface toward
thatof the (assumed) recipientof the utterance,
deliveredin a suitablyfriendlytone at a socially
acceptable distancewhile enactinga sociallyappropriateidentity,and so forth-will,in principle, activatein the recipienta set of previously
socialized neural connectionsleading to the holisticunderstandingthatthisis the speech act we
call a greeting.Quite probably,it will also result
in neurally-basedand highly-patterned
action by
the recipient,comprising,among otherthings,a
reciprocal physicalorientation,affectivestance,
facial expression, tone of voice, and utterance-what we call a response.
WhatI firstwantto highlightin thisexample is
the interactive,
"outside-in"(Shore, 1996) nature
of the sociocognitiveevent.Withouttherichcontributionof social (signifying)
practicesand tools
such as facial expression,physicalorientation,
voice quality,language, social scene (an isolated
New England byway),and social actors(strangers

approachingeach other),neithercognitionitself
nor the resultingspeech eventcould have taken
place. Puta bitmoremetaphorically,
perhaps,the
acts of cognitiondescribed in this example are
substantially continuous with the social
world-they do not startin the head, although
the head is certainlyinvolved,nor do theyend in
the head, because the outputis social action.Nor
do the social (signifying)
practicesinvolvedsimplytakeon theirmeaningonce theyarrivein the
head; instead,theycome withmeaning already,
in a sense,builtin-just as language carrieswith
it meaning that is only "borrowed" (Bakhtin,
1990) in specificinstancesof language use. The
pointhere, then,is thatcognitionis not a private
thatoccurs exclusivelyin the confinesof
activity
an independent, isolated cerebral space, but
ratherthatit is at least a semipublicactivity,
produced as part of a substantiallyopen system.
Wheneverwe participatein social activity,
we participatein conventionalwaysof actingand being
that are already deeply saturated with significance.
Gee (1992, p. 12) gave the followingexample
of how cognition(or at least knowledge)is both
"in the head" and "in the world":
Considerthewaypeoplemovearounda city.Some
havequiteimpressive
peopleundoubtedly
"maps"of
the cityin theirheads,othershave less complete
ones, and some people have quite impoverished
ones.However,
peopledo notneedtohaveanyvery
fullrepresentations
intheirminds... sincethestructureofthecity,
outintheworldas itis,determines
a
. . . People's"knowlgood deal of theirmovement.
ingoodpart,outinthecity
edge"ofthecityisstored,
itself.
Their"city
schema"... is notjustmadeup of
in theirheads,itisalsocomposedofthestructhings
turesin thecityitself,
as wellas physical
maps(and
likepublictransportation
things
schedules)thatpeople can read.(p. 12)
Thus, meaning resides (partway) in social
products(e.g., cities,maps,countryroads, cars),
social practices (e.g., greetingsomebody,reading,bakinga cake, playingthe role of teacheror
studentin a classroom), and social tools (e.g.,
language, literacy,computerprograms,methods
of navigation),even as it resides (partway)in the
head.
A second, slightly
different
aspect of the countryroad greetingexample thatI wantto highlight
is the profoundlyintegrative
natureof the socioand its
cognitiveevent.That is, language activity
cognitivecorrelatesalwaysoccur as integralparts
of larger sociocognitivewholes. Thus, without
each of the followingoccurringand being cognized in relationto one another-socially signify-

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532

and the conand physicalorientations, 1995) provideboth the framework


ing facialexpressions
socialscene tentthroughwhichbasic context-languageform
affective
stance,a conventionalized
in a social settingwitha social purposeper- associations are made and internalized.Gee's
formedbysocialactors,and theeffective
deploy- (1995) routineprincipleand publicprinciple,dementof thesocialtoolof language-theactivity scribed earlier,capture importantfacetsof how
of exchanginggreetings
could not have taken such routines provide repetitive,public, and
is
ofconnectionism
opportunitiesforinfantsto conhighly-structured
strength
place.Animportant
thatit can accountforsuchcomplexintertwin- nect specific utteranceswith specific semantic
emer- complexes. Coordinated activityof infantand
modalities,
ingsof sensoryand affective
social
and
structures,
caregiveris centralin this kind of routine---degentcognitive
phenomena,
cannotbe strictly
and use in theaccomplishment spitethefactthatintentionality
languageability
stimulus-seekofsocialactivity.
It does so in termsoftheinter- attributedto infants,as aggressively
actionsof varioussetsof activatedneurons-of ing organismswitha naturalattractionto interacthatworktogetherbecauseof tive and repetitivebehavior (Locke, 1993) they
neuralnetworks
previousexposureto similarexperiencecom- learn to playtheirpartearlyon. More specifically,
plexes(e.g.,Gee,1992,chap.2; Strauss& Quinn, the related notionsof scaffolding(e.g., Ninio &
1997,chap.3). Fromthisviewpoint,
Bruner, 1978), verticalconstructions(Scollon,
languageper
se is not the privileged
and separatesummum 1976), zone of proximaldevelopment(e.g., Cole,
elementofsocio- 1985; Vygostky,1978), socializing attention
bonum,butratheran integral
theultimate
cognitive
activity,
purposeofwhich (Zukow-Goldring& Ferko, 1994), and proposiis to perform
situated
tions across individualsand utterances(Ochs et
action-in-the-world.

LANGUAGEACQUISITIONAS A
SOCIOCOGNITIVEPHENOMENON
forthesociocognitive
Equallygoodarguments
natureoflanguagecomefromthecircumstances
ofitsacquisition.
A well-established
in L1
finding
research
is thatexternal
context
acquisition
plays
a crucialroleearlyon. In earlyacquisition
ofthe
lexicon,forinstance,it is vitalthatchildrenbe
abletolinkparticular
andphrases
sounds,words,
to the appearanceof particular
obrepetitively
or
to
the
occurrence
of
actions
jects
particular
1995;see also Gee,1995,described
(Barrett,
preformis simply
viously).To say thatlinguistic
being "input"into an autonomouslanguage
atthispointwouldbe inaccurate;
learningsystem
at minimum,
boththeformand theobject/actionare beingcognitively
in some
represented
kindof associative
The widelyacrelationship.
cepted notionof eventrepresentation
(e.g., Barrett,

1995;Nelson,1986) goes one stepfurther,


providinga richerand, froma sociocognitive
permoreplausibleviewof earlylanguage
spective,
acquisition. It postulates that children already

havecognitively
well-developed,
organizedassociationsofactivity
sequences,actors,and objects
(alongwithopen slotsbywhichsomeactorsand
forbyothers)onto
objectsmaybe substituted

which different
words are initiallymapped, and
withinwhichtheythereafter
become substantially

integrated.
Nor is itjust anyexternalcontextthatearly
sociallanguagedevelopment
dependson.Rather,
interactional
routines(e.g., Barrett, 1995; Gee,

al., 1979) all reconceptualizethe child and the


caregiveras an interactionalunitin theiraccomplishmentof sociocognitivetasksthat the child
could notperformindependently,
and, therefore,
as a centralmechanismof developmentalgrowth.
It is generallythoughtthatas L1 development
progresses,contextbecomesa lessimportantpart
of the acquisitionalscheme. Thus, whereaschildren's earlyutterancesare tiedcloselyto thehere
and now (Foster, 1990), they become progressivelylessso as timegoes on. This findingis often
taken as evidence that some sort of basic language learningmachineryhas kicked fullyinto
gear and is now operatingon a fairlysystematic
and autonomousbasis.
Although it is no doubt true that qualitative
changes take place once linguisticknowledge
reaches a certaincriticalmass for children,connectionisttheoriesof cognitionand language acquisitionsuggestthatmuch if not all learningis
accomplishednot byprogressively
greaterseparation of the knowledgebeing acquired fromthe
externalworld and other domains of cognitive
knowledge,but bytheirincreasingintegration.If
thisis the case, thenit mightbe moreaccurateto
say that context,ratherthan disappearingfrom
the scene altogether,partly"comes inside."That
is, as has been widelyposited by neo-Vygotskian
sociocultural theorists(e.g., Lantolf & Appel,
1994; Wertsch& Stone, 1985), the fundamental
dynamicof acquiringlanguage (as well as other
exter"highermentalfunctions")is thatformerly
reconnalized/social knowledgeis substantially
figuredas internalized/cognitive
knowledge.But
scholarswho have recentlyattemptedto linkcog-

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533

nitionvia connectionismmore closelyto the social and culturalworld (e.g., Gee, 1992; Shore,
1996; Strauss& Quinn, 1997) mighttake exception to the implicationsof the Vygotskianclaim
thatlanguage is, to some degree, graduallyloosened during developmentfromits mooringsin
social life.Rather,fromthisnewerperspective,it
mightbe more accurate to say thatsocial life is
now becoming articulatedat a cognitivelevel in
the developmentof culturalmodels(Gee, 1992;
Holland & Quinn, 1987; Shore, 1996)-models
thatowe both theiroriginsand theircontinued
activationand use directlyto their social existence-and thatin thisimportantsense thecognitive and the social are growing progressively
closer together.
If this version of connectionismis even approximatelycorrect,then the notion of "decontextualizedlanguage"-so importantin descriptionsof laterlanguage and literacylearningand
earlysuccessand failurein schooling-is perhaps
neitherusefulnor accurate.That is, ifcontextis
takento be onlythe immediatesocial and physical settingof language behaviorin the here and
now-the contextof situationfirstdescribed by
Malinowski(1923) and laterelaboratedbyHalliday (in Halliday & Hasan, 1989, chap. 1)-such
language behavior mightwell be seen as thoroughlydecontextualized.But if contextis more
widelyconstruedas context
ofculture(Halliday &
Hasan, 1989; Malinowski,1923; Ochs, 1990)-involvingthe increasingcognitiveinterarticulation
of cultural models with social practices,social
products,and social tools (including,crucially,
how to deploythemeffectively)
-then to thinkof
more deconlanguage as becomingprogressively
textualizedand autonomous in the course of its
acquisitionmaybe fundamentally
misguided.
Event representationsin earlyLi acquisition,
temalthoughsometimesclaimed to be relatively
porary and evanescent, suggestivelyresemble
early and relativelyunarticulated schemas or
mental models (or, in connectionistterms,networksof neural associationsout of which such
schemas/models are formed basically online).
Whetheror not theyprovidea skeletalbase for
the laterarticulationof socioculturalknowledge
in the formof culturalmodels,schemas,frames,
or scripts(Cole, 1985), theirearlyexistencedoes
of sociocognitiveprosuggesta sortof continuity
cesses-the progressive"thickening"of "knowledge in the head" by "knowledge in the
world"-the basic outside-indynamicdescribed
by Shore (1996) and alluded to above. Put yet
anotherway,any organism'sprogressiveadaptation to itsenvironmentis a hallmarkof develop-

mental growth.The gradual approximationby


developing humans of what is "in the head" to
what is "in the world" is just such an adaptive
dynamic.
Gee (1992; followingC. J. Fillmore,1975) describedtheculturalmodel associatedwiththelexical itembachelor
Accordingto Gee, thedictionary
definitionof bacheloras
unmarried
maleisonlyrudirelatedto thedense linkingsof associamentarily
tionsthatfallwithinthe culturallyconstruedunFor one, bachelor
invokes
derstandingof bachelor.
an idealized, culturallynormativeviewof masculine sexuality.Thus, Roman Catholic priests,
youngboys,homelessmen,and so forth,seem to
fitinto the categoryonly problematically.
Likewise,when contrastedwiththe termspinster-its
seems to
apparent gender counterpart-bachelor
carrywithit the culturalpresuppositionthatsinmore eligibleand
gle men become progressively
desirablemarriagepartnersas theygrowolder (or
at minimum their eligibilitynever ceases),
whereaswomenbecome progressively
lessso.
Althoughnot all connectionsin the complex
web of potentialassociationswiththeword bachelorneed be activatedon everyoccasion of itsuse,
the point is that such a rich, articulatedbackgroundexists,and thatthisbackgroundis located
not only in cognitivebut also social space. It
mightalso be pointed out thatexamples of the
typeI have givenin thisarticlecannoteven begin
to approximatethe extremely
rich,complex,and
kinds of sociocognitiveknowlhighly-articulated
edge that most humans are privyto simplyby
virtueof theirlived experienceand sociogenetic
inheritance.To mentionjust one further(and
more or less linguistic)elementthatmustfigure
in such highlydeveloped knowledge
importantly
vis-a-vis
complexes
language use, consider the
realization
growing
among linguiststhat statistical-collocational relationship between various
linguisticfeaturesis a major principlein the syntagmaticand paradigmaticorganizationof language-in-useand its acquisition (e.g., Saffran,
Aslin, & Newport, 1996; Seidenberg, 1996;
Stubbs,1996, chap. 2). Such knowledgeis easily
accounted forin termsof connectionistnetworks
(Seidenberg,1996), and would obviouslybe held
in joint, if variable,ownershipwithone's social
milieu. Taken togetherwith the other kinds of
knowledgeI have so farmentionedand exemplified, it suggests"a semantics. . . more like an
encyclopediathana dictionary,[which]incorporates the view that linguisticcategoriesexist in
relationto 'particularstructuredunderstandings
of culturalinstitutions,
beliefsabout the world'"
(Hanks, 1996,p. 244, includinga quotationfrom

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534
C. J.Fillmore,1985). Althoughthisformulation
maystillassume somethingof the traditionaldivide betweenthe social and the cognitiveI have
been arguingagainst,it also capturessome of the
and connectivity
I am tryingto
interpenetration
portray.9
SLA AS A SOCIOCOGNITIVE PHENOMENON
Let me summarizethe main argumentof the
article as developed to this point: Neither language acquisition nor language use-nor even
cognized linguisticknowledge-can be properly
understood without taking into account their
fundamentalintegrationinto a socially-mediated
world. Beyond simplysayingthat the cognitive
and the social interact,I use recent researchin
linguistics,anthropology,language acquisition,
and cognitivescience-work I have necessarily
had to relyon, because so littleof itskindhas yet
been done in thefieldofSLA-to argue thatthey
are mutuallyconstituted.It is commonplace for
and socially-orientedlancognitively-oriented
guage researchersto assume (at leastforworking
purposes) the separabilityof theirdomains.I argue instead that these two domains cannot usefullybe separated:The coinage "sociocognitive"
(e.g., Ochs, 1988b) is adopted to representthis
distinctperspective.
Withitsbeginningsin thecognitivepsychology
revolutionof the 1960s (e.g., Brown,1973; Corder, 1967), the fieldof SLA has adopted, by and
viewofsecond language
large,a highlycognitivist
Breen,
1985;
Crookes,1997; Firth
learning (e.g.,
& Wagner,1997). By cognitivist,
I mean a perspective that places SLA mainly within individual
heads and thatsees individualsthereforeas radically autonomous language acquirers (Pennycook, 1997). Even where social variablesappear
to enterin, fromthisperspective,theydo so only
as indirectinfluenceson theacquisitionalprocess
(R. Ellis, 1994).10
Althoughthisshared perspectivehas provided
a (very)roughlycommon ground forinquiryin
SLA, itcomes at thecostof denaturingreduction.
If the developmentof "languaging"depends on
greaterengagementwithand adaptation to the
(socially-mediated)world--or,more accurately,
on the progressiveinterarticulation
of the social
and the cognitive-then a SLA based substantiallyon such masterconceptsas input,the (idealized) learner,and a "lonely"versionof cognition is an impoverishedendeavor.
Others have, of course, made similarpoints
from time to time, and in recent years mainstreamSLA has been increasinglycriticizedfor

this reason (as seen, in part, in the quotations


beginning this article). But Breen's (1985) plea
to researchers and teachers to treat second language classrooms as cultural scenes is still one of
the most eloquent statements of the problem:
Given thatwe wish to understandhow the external
social situationof a classroomrelatesto the internal
psychologicalstatesof the learner,the metaphorof
the classroomas providerof optimal input or reinforcerof good strategiesis inadequate. It reduces
the
act or experienceof learninga language to linguistic
or behaviouralconditioningsomehowindependent
of the learner's social reality.Not only is SLA research currentlyofferingus a delimited [sic] account of language learning,reducing activecognition to passive internalisation and reducing
language to veryspecificgrammaticalperformance,
the mainstreamof SLA research is also asocial. It
neglects the social significanceof even those variables which the investigators
regardas central.The
prioritygiven to linguisticand mentalisticvariables
in termsof the efficientprocessingof knowledgeas
inputleads inevitablyto a partialaccount of the language learningprocess.The social contextof learning and the social forceswithinit will alwaysshape
what is made available to be learned and the interaction of individualmind withexternallinguisticor
communicativeknowledge.Even Wundt,thefirstexbelieved thathe could not
perimentalpsychologist,
studyhighermentalprocessessuch as reasoning,belief,thought,and language in a laboratory
precisely
because such processeswererootedwithinauthentic
social activity.(pp. 138-139)
Likewise, Vygotskian researchers (e.g., Hall,
1997; Lantolf, 2000; Lantolf & Appel, 1994) have
argued against the reductive cognitivism of the
field. Lantolf and Appel (1994), for example,
criticized a view of the language learner "as a
solipsistic biological organism whose cognitive
powers simplyunfold or ripen with the passage of
time, rather than as someone who experiences
productive participation in joint activity"(p. 11).
Discourse analysts Firth and Wagner (1997) also
offered a broad critique of SLA research as "individualistic and mechanistic"-as based on a perspective that is:
weightedagainst the social and the contextual,and
heavilyin favourof the individual'scognition,particularlythe development of grammaticalcompetence.This has led to an imbalanceofadopted theoretical interests, priorities, foci, methodologies,
perspectives..,.resultingin distorteddescriptionsof
and viewson discourse,communication,and interpersonal meaning-the quintessentialelements of
language. Moreover,thishas occurred even in SLA
workthat is concerned withdiscourseand interaction. (p. 288)

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535

AlthoughI do not agree withelementsof Firth


and Wagner'sargument,theirgeneral claim that
mainstreamSLA is lopsidedly cognitivist-and
that much of its currentpracticevirtuallycompels a viewof language as radicallydisconnected
fromitsnaturalenvironment,
even in studiesthat
seem to investigatelanguage use in thatenvironment-is, in myopinion, all too accurate.11
Taking thejust-mentionedcritiquesof SLA as
part of a largercriticalendeavor,I would like to
delineate my own understandingof some key
concepts in the field,and indicate where I find
themat odds witha sociocognitiveperspective.

Input
As dramatizedat the beginningof thispaper,I
see the notion of input in mainstreamSLA as
coming fairlyclose to thatof a switchor trigger,
whetherone adopts a UniversalGrammarperspectiveor not. At least one can saythatinputis
of interestin thisapproach mainlyas a stimulus
activatingan autonomous cognitivelearningapparatus, which is assumed to performcertain
(often unclearly-specified)processing operations. In thisway,the stimulusis convertedinto
some kind of internal grammatical representation,whichfinds,over time,itsproperrelationship with other such representationsin a
rule-governedstructuralist
systemthatis virtually
immune to nonlinguisticinfluence. Even SLA
studiesofinputmodificationand interaction(see
below), which focus nominallyon language-inuse, seem to adopt thisscenario-or something
quite likeit-as theirunderlying"centraldogma"
(Crick,1988).
Much of this characterizationis problematic
froma sociocognitiveperspective.If knowledge
of the world,including linguisticknowledge,is
organized in the form of "actional wholes"
(Hanks, 1996, p. 245, where actionalrefersto the
fundamentalpurpose of language to contribute
to the carryingout of action in the world), it is
hard to imagine how such knowledgewould develop via decontextualizedinternalization.The
developing grammaticalsystemas I have describeditfurthermore
lacksanymotivationother
than perhaps a purelygeneticone, whichis why
itsdescriptionis oftenpervadedbyan odd sortof
anomie, in myopinion-it just is because it is. As
I have triedto make clear,any approach to language and its acquisition which ignores or dismissesthe basic functionality
of language forhuman beingsin societyis lackingin descriptiveand
theoreticaladequacy.

Interaction
Most SLA researcherswho study"interaction"
do so mainlyfor the sake of understandingits
conditioningeffecton input.This is made clear
byGass (1998):
The goalofmywork(and theworkofotherswithin
theinput/interaction
hasneverbeen
framework...)
to understand
languageuse perse ... butratherto
understand
whattypesof interaction
mightbring
aboutwhattypesofchangesinlinguistic
knowledge.
(p. 84)
This is trulya pale reflectionof the studyof
authentichuman (linguistic)interaction,as Liddicoat (1997) noted:
Whatismissing...[in]thestudy
ofinteraction
inL2
contexts
is interaction
betweenpeoplewhohavea
whoare interacting
forthe
preexisting
relationship,
and who
purposeof engagingin thatrelationship,
are engagedin interaction
inwhichtheiroptionsfor
are not constrained
participating
by institutional
roles.12
(p. 314)
In other words,what is missingin mainstream
SLA is any concernwhatsoeverforthe dominant
formsof interactionin the world,and forthose
interactionsqua interactions.
The termtherefore
seems to be a misnomer,given the factthatthe
focus of workthat purportedlystudiesit is still
language-in-the-head.
Again in the wordsof Liddicoat: "Essentially,
what is happening here [in
the contrivedinteractionalsettingsfavored in
mainstreamSLA] is an interaction
toallow
designed
the NNS to producea language sample [italics
added]" (p. 315). Froma sociocognitiveperspectivethisis hardlyinteractionat all.
TheLanguageLearner
To put itbluntly,
the language learnerin mainstreamSLA is somethinglike an automaton,interestingonlyin thesense thatithouses a discrete
language learning system.This view is well attestedin writingon the goals of SLA; to restate
thewordsof Long (1997), cited at thebeginning
of this article: "Most SLA researchersview the
object of inquiry as in large part an internal,
mental process" (p. 319). If SLA is about language-learninghumanbeings,theyare therefore
human only in a derivativesense-analogous,
more or less, to the attenuatedmannerin which
languageis considered"creative"byChomskyans.
As noted previously,
I frequently
findthe reading of SLA researchto be almostan exercise in
surrealism-based, I believe, in the just-mentionedcontradictory
"presentabsence" ofhuman

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536

TheModernLanguageJournal86 (2002)

beings. Human beings as I know them,whether


people on the street,studentsI teach and work
with,professionalcolleagues,or thoseI am close
to and love,appear to act, think,and feelin ways
and forreasonsentirelydifferent
thanthosemost
in
research.
Case studies,
featured
SLA
typically
diary studies,and (mostlyearlier) workthatfocuses on authenticinteractionand language use
(e.g., L. W. Fillmore,1979; Saville-Troike,1988;
Schmidt,1983; Schmidt& Frota,1986) are some
of the exceptionsI know of in thisregard-and
theyare admirableexceptions.
Methods
(Scientific)
Fromthe start,SLA was "scientized"byitspractitioners(Block, 1996). This was partlybecause it
and linguistics
as its
adopted cognitivepsychology
source disciplines(e.g., Crookes, 1997; Mitchell
& Myles,1998). As timewenton, however,a second good reason for seeing SLA as science became apparent: Academic politics and prestige
favoreddoing so, especiallyif SLA was thereby
dissociatedfromthelow-status
occupationof language teaching(Schachter,1993). Althoughthis
move mayhave broughta certainamount of reassociation to the field, recent
spect-by-(dis?)
chargesof "scienceenvy"(Block, 1996) or "physics envy" (Lantolf,1996) are, in some respects,
not faroffthe mark.The idea thatone can study
inherentlysocial phenomena by applyingmethods and approaches originallydeveloped to describethe behaviorofinanimateobjectshas been
widelycritiqued,startingas farback, perhaps,as
Wundt (see quotation fromBreen, 1985, given
above). Strongargumentshave also been made
to the effectthatquantitativescientificmethodologies,because theyneutralizebydesignwhatis
variable and individual (in human behavior or
otherwise),produce epiphenomenallyuniform
accounts (e.g., Daston, 1995; Hacking,1981; Porter,1995). That is, uniformresultshave been aran artifactof methodologued to be substantially
in
a
which,
sense,
gies
presuppose them-for
example,bystatistical
generalizationor strictcontrolof "extraneous"variables.Althoughsuch critiques have been widespread in the social sciences over the past 20 or so years,it is of more
than passing interestthat defenders of mainstreamscientizedSLA (e.g., mostof thecontributorsto Beretta,1993) tend to relyfortheirargumentsmore on the (nonempirical)philosophy
of
science,thanon actual,empiricalaccountsof scientificbehavior (e.g., Collins, 1985; Gilbert &
Mulkay,1984; Latour & Woolgar,1986; Traweek,
1988).

Cognition
In mainstreamSLA cognitionis a "lonely"process takingplace withinan autonomouslanguage
learningorganism.Its forteis the processingof
input/constructionof linguisticknowledge. It
servesas a bank of internallinguisticknowledge,
or competence, which most often has only an
indirect connection to language performance.
Even non-mainstream
areas of SLA thatfocuson
language performance,such as interlanguage
pragmatics,sometimesseem to assume thisview
(e.g., Kasper,1997).
Language
Where language is reduced substantiallyto
grammar,and its use largelyto the provisionof
input, there existsa reductivenessapproaching
thatofChomksy'sinfluentialvision.Froma sociocognitiveperspective,however,language is an
abundantlyrich resource for gettingon in the
world-for performingsocial action.Language is
intricatelybut dynamicallyinterwovenwith humans' othermeans of ecological adaptationand
and removingitfromthatcontextcomes
activity,
at a real cost.
Beyond simplydefininga sociocognitiveapSLA orthoproach to SLA negatively
bycriticizing
doxy,however,I would also like to providea view
ofwhatit is,or,more accurately,
whatit could be.
One thingis clear: Such a perspectivedoes not
yetexistin SLA. For thisreason,itwillbe possible
to go just so farin conjuringup itsimage.
First,a sociocognitiveapproach to SLA would
take the social dimensionsof language and its
in sociocognitive
acquisitionseriously.Interaction
SLA would have its full sociocognitivesignificance and constitutea foundational concept.
Language is learned in interaction,oftenwith
more capable social members.Classroomteachersare partof thisgroupwheresecond languages
are concerned,but onlya part-peers, mentors,
role models,friends,familymembers,and significant others can also fall into this category.Although interactionmightnot include conversationin all cases,itwould certainlyentailthedeep,
holisticinvestmentof learnersin learningactivities,and would see thoselearnersas activeagents,
not passiverecipients.
Second, language and itsacquisitionwould be
fullyintegratedinto otheractivities,
people, and
thingsin a sociocognitiveapproach to SLA. They
would be seen as integralpartsoflargersociocognitivewholes,or,in Gee's (1992) term,Discourses:
"Discourses are composed of people, of ob-

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DwightAtkinson

537

jects . . . and of... talking,acting,interacting,


thinking,believing,and valuing,and sometimes.
. .writing,reading,and/or interpreting
.... Discourses are out in the world,like books, maps,
and cities" (p. 20). In other words, language
would be seen in termsofitsrichecological/contextual/relational "worldliness" (Pennycook,
1994) and complexityratherthan its simplicity,
and autonomy.
parsimony,
Third,language and its acquisition,froma sociocognitiveperspective,would be seen in terms
of "action"and "participation"-as providingan
extremelypowerfulsemioticmeans of perform(Roing and participatingin activity-in-the-world
goff,1990, 1998; Lave & Wenger,1991). It is just
becauselanguage serves this vital function,one
could say,thatit existsand thatpeople acquire it:
One does not usuallyacquire a language in order
toacquire it,or talkabout it,or providedata for
SLA researchers.One acquires a language in order to act, and by acting,in a worldwhere language is performative.This is exactlywhyand
how children learn their firstlanguage, and it
accounts as well for most of the second/additional language learninggoing on in the world
today.It is an extremelyunfortunatematterthat
we have some influentialmythssuggestingotherwise-for example,thatSLA takesplace primarily
in cases wherestudentsare taughtsomethingdiscrete called language (Gee, 1990), or that SLA
takesplace withinisolatedheads whose onlymotivationis creative
construction.
Finally, a sociocognitive perspective should
not,strictly
speaking,exclude. As an approach to
language,itis fundamentally
cognitiveandfundamentallysocial.A sociocognitiveperspectivedoes
not diminisha view of language as one or the
other-it argues for the profound interdependencyand integrationof both. Thus, althoughI
have described a cognitivist
view of SLA as "impoverished,"that is not the same as sayingit is
wrong. In fact, I believe that cognitivistshave
contributedto our understanding-howevertentativeand partial at this point--of SLA. But if
language is in the worldat the same timeas it is
in the head, then we need to account for its
integratedexistence,ratherthanadopt positions
that reduce the life-the humanity--outof language.
A NOTE ON NEO-VYGOTSKIAN
SOCIOCULTURAL THEORY IN SLA
Giventhe increasingpopularityof a non-mainstreamformof SLA theory-neo-Vygotskian
socioculturaltheory--whichtriesto address some

of the same problemswithmainstreamSLA research discussedin thisarticle,I would like here


brieflyto indicatewhere I believe myapproach
differsfromthisone and is not simplyreducible
to it.
A major claim of Vygotsky-anda claim that
seems typicallyto be assumed or endorsed by
current neo-VygotskianSLA researchers (e.g.,
Lantolf,2000)-was thatlanguageappears,developmentallyspeaking,firston theinterpsychological plane (i.e., as social speech) and only afterwards on the intrapsychological
plane (i.e., as
internalizedor inner speech). There is thus a
gradual processof internalization
wherebya fully
externalizedsocial practice becomes a substantiallyinternalizedcognitivepractice (e.g., Lantolf,2000; LantolfwithPavlenko,1995). In fact,
thisis howpeople learn to
accordingto Vygotsky,
cognize-how "highermental development"occurs: "Anyhigher mental functionwas external
because it wassocialat somepointbefore
an
becoming
internal,
trulymental
function[italicsadded]" (Vygotsky,1981, p. 162).
In a recent major statementof sociocultural
theoryin SLA, Lantolf(2000) has echoed Vygotsky'sview:
Internalization
is in essencethe processthrough
whichhigherformsofmentation
cometo be. Internalization
thenassumesthatthe[original]
sourceof
consciousness
residesoutsideof thehead and is in
factanchoredin socialactivity.
Atfirst
theactivity
of
individuals
is organizedand regulated(i.e., medibuteventually,
in normaldevelopated) byothers,
ment,we come to organizeand regulateour own
mentaland physical
theappropriaactivity
through
tionoftheregulatory
meansemployed
At
byothers.
thispointpsychological
comesunderthe
functioning
controloftheperson.(pp. 13-14)
voluntary
From thispoint of view,we could say thatlanguage is sociocognitivein a mannerof speaking,
but onlyor mostsubstantially
in its developmental
also
Kirshner
&
(see
Whitson,
1997, fora
profile
similarcritique). That is, language startssocial,
but becomes substantiallycognitiveas developmentproceeds: in the words,once again, of Lantolf (2000), "The convergenceof thinking[i.e.,
the cognitive]withculturallycreatedmediational
artifacts [i.e., the social] ... occurs in the process

of internalization,or the reconstructionon the


inner,psychologicalplane, of sociallymediated
externalformsof goal-directedactivity"(p. 13).
For some neo-Vygotskians
thismaybe a sufficient
explanation of both language developmentand
use in toto, given that for Vygotsky,
"to understandbehaviormeans to understandthehistory
of

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538

TheModernLanguageJournal86 (2002)

behavior[italics added] "(cited in Cole, 1993, p.


9).13
But myownargument-as developed on a stepby-stepbasis in thisarticle-is thatalthoughlanguage mayperhapsbe seen fromsome pointsof
view as more or less internalizedand self-regulated-as the propertyof an individual,cognitive
self-in actualityit alwaysand everywhereexists
in an integratedsociocognitivespace. In termsof
the above-givenformulationof Vygotsky
(1981),
I would thereforeargue that, contra his view,
language (no matterwhat its stage of development) never takes on an "internal,trulymental
function"at all. Rather,it is alwaysmutually,siin the head
multaneously,and co-constitutively
and in the world. Certainly,at criticalpoints in
development,language may seem to "come inside"-but ifone end of language,so to speak,is
embedded in cognitivespace, the other end is
embedded in social space.
just as strongly
In actual fact,thisuse of spatialand object-oriented metaphorsto describelanguage hardlysuffices,but I hope at least to have indicatedwhatI
believe is a basic difference-certainly
at least in
termsof emphasis-between whatI propose here
and what many neo-Vygotkians
assume or are
proposing in their SLA work. There are other
differences-forinstance,the artificialtasksand
conditionsthathave historically
obtained in Vyand
the
need
in
such research
gotskianresearch,
to break behavior down into component parts
while at the same time professingholism (e.g.,
Wertsch,1998; see also Kirshner & Whitson,
differenceis the
1997). But the first-mentioned
most importantone, and fromit many of the
otherdifferencesproceed. This is not to saythat
I do not value or respectresearchbeing done in
this frameworkin the field,nor that it has not
contributedsignificantly
to myown thinkingon
SLA.

CONCLUSION
What,then,are some of the implicationsof a
sociocognitiveviewof SLA? Here I willspeculate
because, as I have alreadypointed out, no such
coherentviewyetexists.In theinterim,I willtake
my cues largelyfrompedagogically-oriented
L1i
researchon situatedcognition,social linguistics,
and learning-as-participation
(e.g., Gee, 1990,
1992; Kirshner& Whitson,1997; Lave & Wenger,
1991; Rogoff,1990, 1998;Wenger,1998; cf.Atkinson, 1997). I should also note thatalthoughseveral of the implicationsdescribed below are in
areas thatare alreadyreceivingattentionin sec-

ond language education, they have not yet in


mostcases been closelylinkedto SLA theory.
One implicationof a sociocognitiveapproach
to SLA is thatteachingis valuable,and thatlearning and teaching go hand-in-hand(a view that
mainstreamSLA, incidently,has yet to agree
on-Crookes, 1997; R. Ellis, 1997). But teaching
in thisviewis also oftenincidental:If one learns
byparticipatingin specificand meaningfulsocial
activity,then co-participantsare often one's
teachers. The expert-novice(or master-apprentice) metaphor emanatingfromstudies of situated cognitionis a useful thinkingtool in this
context,exactlybecause it emphasizes learning
throughactive and increasinglyknowledgeable
of pracparticipationin a particular"community
tice." But thismetaphorshould not be taken to
implythatlearnersand thosetheylearn fromare
profoundlyseparated. As already noted, peers
can be teachers,dependingon the situation,and
the same is trueforall otherswithwhomwe have
social relationships.If we consider thatmost of
the additionallanguage learninggoing on in the
world todayis of thisnonformalvariety,
thenwe
have a more realisticnotionofteaching,and how
teachingand learninginteract.If,as second language teachers,we can harnessmoreof therange
of teachingsituationsthatactuallytake place in
the world outside the classroom (e.g., Atkinson,
1997, 1998; Hawkins,1998), thenwe willbe able
to utilize more fullythe teachingand learning
potentialof all human beings.
A second implicationof a sociocognitiveapproach to SLA is intimatelyrelated to the view
thatlanguage and itsacquisitionare not radically
disconnected from the rest of the world. Language-in-the-world
suggestsa richnessand power
for it that extends well beyond the transferof
information
frombrainto brain.A sociocognitive
to
approach SLA promotesand reinforcesmany
connectionsto otherrealmsof inquiryand practice, such as: culture (e.g., Atkinson, 1999;
Kramsch, 1993); schooling (e.g., Poole, 1992);
identity(e.g., Peirce, 1995); power,politics,and
ideology(e.g., Fairclough,1992; Gee, 1990, 1992;
Pennycook,1994); discourse (e.g., Firth& Wagner, 1997); social ecology (e.g., Capra, 1996;
Schumacher,1997); and embodied action-taking
(e.g., Goodwin, 2000). When one considersthe
deep involvement of second/additional languages in world politics,exploitativecapitalism,
and globalization (e.g., Pennycook,1994, 1998;
Phillipson,1992), thena veryreal gain is realized
in the intrinsicconsequentialityof studying,
learning,and teachingthem.We need and can
have a SLA-not to mentionapproaches to sec-

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DwightAtkinson

539

ond language teaching--withreal potentialfor


changing the world,ratherthan being radically
separatedfromit.
A thirdimplicationof the sociocognitivestudy
of SLA concerns researchmethodsfor studying
the learningand teachingof second/additional
stalanguages. Although individual-aggregating
tisticaland experimentalmethodshave a place in
SLA, studyingreal humans in real human contextsand interactions,includingclassrooms,entails methodologies that do not denature phenomena by removingthem from their natural
environmentsand breaking them down into
countablecomponentparts.Qualitativeresearch
approaches thatattemptto honor the profound
wholenessand situatednessof social scenes and
such as ethnographic
individuals-in-the-world,
methods(e.g., Holliday,1996; Lazaraton& Davis,
1995; Ramanathan& Atkinson,1999), willhave a
central place in this endeavor. One furtherimportantadvantageof such methodologiesis that
theyare less likelyto reproduce the theory-practice divide-the asymmetricaldivision of labor
between(classroom)teachersand researchers.In
the suggestivephrasingof Holliday (1994), "the
teacher cannot affordto be anythingbut a researcher" (p. 31) where broad sociocognitive
connectionsare acknowledgedbetweentheclassroom and the outside world. Likewise, classrooms,among otherkindsof learningsituations,
can be studiedvia these methodsas complex sociocognitiveactivitysystemsin their own right
(Breen, 1985; Holliday,1996).
Fourth and finally,sociocognitiveapproaches
to SLA will provide a means by which second
language learners can be seen as real people,
doing somethingtheynaturallydo-not as mere
researchsubjects,or mere students,or mere sites
for language acquisition. Perhaps the theme I
have emphasized above others in this article is
that thought,feeling,and activityin the social
worldare broughttogetherin theformofhuman
beings activelyoperatingas part of thatworld.It
is thereforefittingto give the last word to Lave
and Wenger(1991), twoscholarswho have done
much to promotethisview:

standingsdo not existin isolation;theyare part of


broadersystems
ofrelationsin whichtheyhavemeaning. These systemsof relationsarise out of and are
reproduced and developed withinsocial communities, which are in part systemsof relationsamong
persons.The person is definedby as well as defines
these relations.Learning thus implies becoming a
different
person withrespectto the possibilitiesenabled by these systemsof relations.To ignore this
aspect oflearningis to overlookthefactthatlearning
involvesthe constructionof identities.(pp. 52-53)
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

JamesPaul Gee firstintroducedme to manyof


theideas developed in thisarticle.I would like to
thank him, as well as A. Vishnu Bhat, Michelle
Burnham,Joan Carson,John Hedgcock, Hiroko
Itakura, Robert B. Kaplan, Wakako Kobayashi,
Claire Kramsch,Ilona Leki, Takako Nishino,and
Nirmal Selvamony,for their criticalcomments
and encouragementin what has been a drawnout writing/publishing
process. David Beglar,
Suresh Canagarajah, George Kamberelis,
GenevievePatthey-Chavez,
and Vai Ramanathan
also generouslyread and commentedon earlier
drafts.I would furtherlike to thankthe MLJeditor, Sally SieloffMagnan, and the four anonymous reviewersfor theirthoughtfuleditingand
comments.This articleis dedicated to the memoryof Matha Bean.
NOTES

1The sociocognitive
approachdevelopedheretakes

its lead from a wide varietyof disciplines and approaches: cognitiveand cultural anthropology(e.g.,
Hanks, 1996; Shore, 1996; Strauss& Quinn, 1997); sociology (e.g., Berger& Luckmann,1966; Goffman,1959;
Sacks et al., 1974); social linguistics(Gee, 1990, 1992);
and language socializationstudies(e.g.,
sociolinguistics
Hymes, 1972; Ochs, 1988a, 1988b, 1990, 1992, 1996;
Schieffelin& Ochs, 1986); neo-Vygotskian
sociocultural
theory(e.g., Lantolf,2000; Lantolf& Appel, 1994; Vygotsky,1981; Wertsch,1985, 1998); studiesof situated
cognition/learningand communitiesof practice(e.g.,
Brown,Collins, & Duguid, 1989; Kirshner& Whitson,
in socialpractice. . . suggests
a very 1997; Lave & Wenger, 1991; Rogoff,1990; Wenger,
Participation
focuson theperson,
butperson-in-the-world,
explicit
1998); cognitive science and connectionism (e.g.,
as memberofa sociocultural
Thisfocus Churchland,1996; A. Clark, 1997; Elman et al., 1996;
community.
in turnpromotesa viewof knowing
Rumelhart& McClellan, 1986; Seidenberg,1996); L1
as activity
by
circumstances.
specific
peoplein specific
acquisition (e.g., Bates et al., 1995; Foster, 1990;
Asan aspectofsocialpractice,
involves
the
Plunkett,1995); SLA (e.g.,Breen,1985;Firth& Wagner,
learning
wholeperson:itimpliesnotonlya relation
tospecific 1997; Peirce, 1995); and studies of conversationand
buta relation
tosocialcommunities-it
activities,
im- interaction(e.g., Goodwin, 1986, 1987, 2000; Lerner,
a fullparticipant,
a member,
pliesbecoming
a kindof
1993, 1996; Ochs et al., 1996).
person... . Activities,
and undertasks,functions,
The termsociocognitive
has been used in a varietyof

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540

The Modern Language Journal 86 (2002)

contextsin a numberof different


disciplines,some of
which are listed above. My own firstexposure to the
termcame in a graduateclass in sociolinguistics
taught
byElinorOchs, one of the main proponentsof some of
the viewsI develop here (e.g., Ochs, 1988a; Ochs et al.,
1996).
2 As thisis a historicaldescription,I do not referto
more recentChomskyanformalisms.In fact,however,
Chomsky'sbasic theoryof language (as opposed to its
ever-changingformal realizations) has remained remarkablystableoverthe years(e.g., Chomsky,2000).
3 This same basic pointis at least implicitin Hymes's
(1972) original conceptualization of communicative
competence,whichI regardas foundationalto a sociocognitiveviewof language.
4 The point has even been made (e.g., Goffman,
1959) that,given an utterancein which the propositionalcontentand the nonpropositionalcontentare in
conflict,the latteris usuallytakenas thefinalarbiterof
meaning.
5 Implicitin mostdefinitionsof connectionismis the
notionofparalleldistributed
takento be
processing-often
its virtualsynonym.Parallel (vs. serial) processinginvolvesthe simultaneouscarryingout of large numbers
of computationalevents(vs. the step-by-step
nature of
serial processing),whereas distributed
(versuscentral)
processingindicatesthatcognitivecomputationalactivityis spread out overa largenumberofneurons/neural
connections,ratherthan havingto depend on anyone
or a smallnumberof them.
6 This approach is part of a broader critiqueacross
the social sciences of mainstreampsychologyas the
studyof "lonely cognition,"instead of self-in-context
(e.g., Gergen, 1985; Hutchins,1995; Lave & Wenger,
1991; Rogoff,1990, 1998). A deeper and more philosophical critiqueof the self is a major theme in postmodernistand poststructuralist
thought(see, e.g., Atkinson,1999) but is beyondthe scope of thisarticle.
7At the same time, participantshew closelyto the
conventionalstorystructureand registerof narratives,
or iftheydo not are usuallybroughtintoline.
8 Deixis is perhaps the
paradigmexample here, but
the same basic claim can be made across linguisticdomains and systems(Hanks, 1996; Ochs, 1992).
9 In general,thedescriptionsgivenin thissectionare
incompleteas theystandin thattheydo not sufficiently
of influenceand interpenecapturethe bidirectionality
trationof social and cognitiveprocesses.Because I am
partlyfocusingon cognitionhere-specificallyas itconcerns the issue of "decontextualizedlanguage"-I have
necessarilyhad to downplaythe reciprocalinfluenceof
thecognitiveon thesocial,as wellas thecontinuousand
integratednature of feedback between them.To give
twoexamples bywayof atonementand the restoration
of holisticbidirectionality:
(a) The designof our cognitiveapparatusfundamentally
influencesthewaywe perceive things,so thatsocial practicesand productsmust
be preadaptedto our cognitive-sensory
capabilities;and
(b) Gee's (1992) descriptionof the sociocognitiveschemas of citiesdemonstratesprofoundsociocognitiveinterpenetrationand interaction.In fact,althoughI will

not seek to articulatethemhere,substantialareas of the


interpenetrationof cognitiveand social phenomena
must operate much more dynamicallyand dialectically-perhaps along the lines of Giddens' (1979) notion of structuration
(see also Atkinson,1999). Thus, it
can be said thatindividualsand social groupsnot only
but thatthey
progressively
adapt to theirenvironments,
also activelyconstruct
those environments
in manyand
variedways.Larsen-Freeman's(1997) thirdmeaningof
the term "dynamic"(p. 148) in describinglanguage
froma chaos/complexity
perspective-althoughit still
seems to depend in some senses on the much-questionednotionoflinguisticrules-captures somethingof
the interactivity,
and constructedfeedback-sensitivity,
ness of "languaging"(Larsen-Freemanherselfuses the
termgrammaring)
I am tryingto get at here. In general,
I findLarsen-Freeman's
discussionofchaos/complexity
SLA inspirationalin itspotentialforrefotheoryvis-4-vis
cusingthefield.
10This view seems problematicif one is to define
language morebroadlythana set ofgrammaticalforms
and rules.How wouldone accountfortheacquisitionof
normsofpoliteness(e.g., Brown& Levinson,1987; Tannen, 1986), forinstance,otherthanbyappealing to the
direct effectof social factors?Tannen has shown in
variouspublicationsthatpolitenessis an aspect of language thatis centralto itsuse and functionality-every
bitas importantas the grammaticalfeaturesmore standardlystudiedin SLA.
11Two SLA researcherswhose workhas been largely
withinthe cognitivisttraditionseem recentlyto have
realized the reductionisminherentin thattradition.R.
Ellis (1997)-partly cited at the beginningof thisarticle-and Crookes (1997), respectively,
state: "SLA in
general has paid littleattentionto the social contextof
L2 acquisition,particularly
wherecontextis viewednon(i.e., as somethinglearnersconstruct
deterministically
for themselves).SLA has been essentiallya psycholinguistic enterprise,dominated by the computational
metaphor of acquisition" (R. Ellis, 1997, p. 87).
"Though cognitivepsychology[as a source discipline
forSLA research]was to be preferredto itsdominant
predecessor[i.e., behaviorism]because itwas (purportedly,at least) about people (ratherthan rats),it was a
long timebeforeI began to understandthatit... could
be seen as a socioculturalconstruct... thatreflectedat
leastto some extentthepresumptionsof thesocietiesin
whichit developed. That was whyit was fundamentally
an individualist
thattreatspeople as isolates"
psychology
(Crookes,1997,p. 98).
It is noteworthy
that both of these statementswere
made in articlesdiscussingthe relevanceof SLA to second language teaching.
12Althoughany claim that participationin interactionbetweenfamiliarsis notconstrainedbyinstitutional
roles is highlyquestionable (e.g., Bourdieu,1984), Liddicoat is clearlymakinga distinctionhere betweenwhat
conversationanalystscall "ordinaryconversation"and
what theycall "institutional
interaction"(for more on
thisdistinction,
see Drew & Heritage,1992).
13If thisis not an understandingof language shared

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DwightAtkinson

541

by all neo-Vygotskians(e.g., Rogoff,1998; Wertsch,


1998), itstillseemsa dominantemphasisamong neo-Vygotskianswho studySLA, as seen in the Lantolfquotationsgivenearlierin thissection.To me, thisemphasis
ofVyliteralistic
representsa particularly
interpretation
gotsky'soriginalthought.

cognitionand the cultureof learning.Educational


18, 32-42.
Researcher,
SomeuniBrown,P., & Levinson,S. C. (1987). Politeness:
versalsof languageusage.Cambridge: Cambridge
Press.
University
Brown,R. (1973). A firstlanguage:Theearlystages.CamPress.
bridge,MA: HarvardUniversity
underCapra, E (1996). The weboflife:A newscientific
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