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Cognitive Perspectives on SLA

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This paper outlines current cognitive perspectives on second language acquisition (SLA). The Associative-Cognitive CREED holds that SLA is governed by the same principles of associative and cognitive learning that underpin the rest of human knowledge. The major principles of the framework are that SLA is Construction-based, Rational, Exemplar-driven, Emergent, and Dialectic. Language learning involves the acquisition of constructions that map linguistic form and function. Competence and performance both emerge from the dynamic system that is the frequency-tuned conspiracy of memorized exemplars of use of these constructions, with competence being the integrated sum of prior usage and performance being its dynamic contextualized activation. The system is rational in that it optimally reflects prior first language (L1) usage. The L1 tunes the ways in which learners attend to language. Learned-attention transfers to L2 and it is this L1 entrenchment that limits the endstate of usage-based SLA. But these limitations can be overcome by recruiting learner consciousness, putting them into a dialectic tension between the conflicting forces of their current stable states of interlanguage and the evidence of explicit form-focused feedback, either linguistic, pragmatic, or metalinguistic, that allows socially scaffolded development. The paper directs the reader to recent review articles in these key areas and weighs the implications of this framework.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2006-11-09

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