The contribution of second language acquisition research
During the last 25 years, second language acquisition (SLA) research hasmade considerable progress, but is still far from proving a solid basis for foreign language teaching, or from a general theory of SLA. In addition, its status within the linguistic disciplines is still very low. I argue this has not much to do with low empirical or theoretical standards in the field—in this regard, SLA research is fully competitive—but with a particular perspective on the acquisition process: SLA researches learners' utterances as deviations from a certain target, instead of genuine manifestations of underlying language capacity; it analyses them in terms of what they are not rather than what they are. For some purposes such a "target deviation perspective" makes sense, but it will not help SLA researchers to substantially and independently contribute to a deeper understanding of the structure and function of the human language faculty. Therefore, these findings will remain of limited interest to other scientists until SLA researchers consider learner varieties a normal, in fact typical, manifestation of this unique human capacity.
Publication typeJournal article