New directions in second language acquisition research: Some implications for curriculum development, teaching and learning

Year: 1994

Author: Heinsch, Dieter P.

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Findings of the ZISA research group from Germany laid the foundations to a principally new approach to understanding the principles of regular, sequential L2 development and variation in speech production. The acquisitional sequence of developmental features is the surface manifestation of underlying acquisition principles, i.e. processing prerequisites acquired at one stage are the basis for the development of processing procedures at the next stage. Since structures (e.g. word order rules) are acquired in a hierarchical order of processing complexity, this set of strategies predicts the order of acquisition for these structures.

Within the stages of development learners demonstrate considerable variations due to their different orientations to the language development process. Thus, two systematic and independent dimensions in SLA have been established: development and variation. However, the process towards accuracy is not a linear one; rather, correctness increases in both directions, i.e. correctness cannot be equated with development. Since SLA is constrained by speech-processing prerequisites that have to be acquired sequentially, Pienemann (1984) predicts "that a linguistic structure cannot be added through instruction of the interlanguage of a learner at any desired point in time in his/her acquisitional career" (Teachability Hypothesis). Evidence from studies with children and adults in mixed natural and formal settings support the Teachability Hypothesis.

Some challenging implications for curriculum development, teaching and learning are to be considered when reconciling the emergence of developmental and variational features and the aim of mastery.