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Keywords in SLL&LT


animacy: whether a noun is animate or animate. Not particularly important in English but vital to Japanese, Italian etc

accent versus dialect: an accent is a way of pronouncing a language that is typical of a particular group, whether regional or social; a dialect is the whole system characteristic of a particular group including grammar and vocabulary etc as well as pronunciation

acculturation: the ways in which L2 users adapt to life with two languages

additive bilingualism: L2 learning that adds to the learner’s capabilities

adjacency pair: a pair of conversational turns e.g. question and answer

agreement: the grammatical system in which two elements in the sentence show they go together by having appropriate word inflections etc, for example singular verb and singular subject in the English present tense

 allophones: different forms of the phoneme in particular contexts, e.g. the aspirate // (with a puff of air) in ‘pill’ versus the unaspirated // (without a puff of air) in ‘lip’

analytic learners: these rely on grammatical sensitivity rather than memory

aptitude: this usually means the ability to learn the second lang­uage in an academic classroom

argument structure: the aspect of a word that dictates the structures in which it may be used, for example the verb 'give' requires an animate subject, a direct object and an indirect object: 'Peter gave a stone to the wolf'

articles: specifiers of nouns divided in English into definite ‘the man in the photo’, indefinite ‘a man came in’ and zero (i.e. none) ‘Man is mortal’

assimilationist teaching: teaching that expects people to give up their native languages and to become speakers of the majority language of the country

audiolingual method; this combined a learning theory based on ideas of habit-formation, and practice with a view of language as patterns and structures; it chiefly made students repeat sentences recorded on tape and practice structures in repetitive drills. Originating in the USA in the 1940s, its peak of popularity was probably the 1960s, though it was not much used in British-influenced EFL. (Note it is not usually abbreviated to ALM since the initials belong to a particular trade-marked method).

audiovisual method; this used visual images to show meaning of spoken dialogues and believed in treating language as a whole rather than divided up into different aspects. Teaching relied on film-strips and taped dialogues for repetition. It emerged chiefly in France in the 1960s and 1970s.

authentic speech: ‘an authentic text is a text that was created to fulfil some social purpose in the language community in which it was produced’ (Little et al., 1988)  

autonomous learning; in this the choice of what and how to learn is essentially handed over to the students, whether immediately or over time

baby talk, motherese, foreigner talk: forms of language specially designed for listeners without full competence in a language

Bilingual Method: a teaching method that uses the student's first language to establish the meanings of the second lang­uage.

bilingual/monolingual modes: in bilingual mode, the L2 user uses two languages; in monolingual mode, a single language, whether their first or second  

Case: a major grammatical system in many languagesin which words show their grammatical function (Subject, Object etc) by different forms. In English surface case only affects pronouns (I, me, my etc) but Case is still invisibly important 

codeswitching: going from one language to the other in mid-speech when both speakers know the same two languages

cofigurative: a culture in which people learn from their equals cognitive strategies: these involve specific conscious ways of tackling learning

cognitive style: a person’s typical ways of thinking, seen as a continuum between field-dependent (FD) cognitive style, in which thinking relates to con­text, and field-independent (FI) style, in which it is independent of context

communication strategies can be:
- mutual attempts to solve L2 communication problems by participants (Tarone 1980)
- individual solutions to psychological problems of L2 processing (Faerch and Kasper 1984)
- ways of filling vocabulary gaps in the first or second lang­uage (Poulisse 1990)  

communicative style: basing teaching on communication, both as the target that the students need to achieve, and as the means of acquiring it in the classroom 

communicative teaching method; this based language teaching on the functions that the second language had for the student and on the meanings they wanted to express, leading to teaching exercises that made the students communicate with each other in various ways. From the mid-1970s onwards this became the most influential way of teaching around the globe, not just for English.

community language learning (CLL), a teaching method in which students create conversations in the second lang­uage from the beginning, using the teacher as translation resource

Competition Model: languages have to choose which aspect of language to emphasise in the processing of speech, whether intonation, vocabulary, word order, or inflections

components of meaning: general aspects of meaning which are shared by many words; 'boy' has the components 'male', 'human', 'young' etc.

compound and coordinate bilinguals: compound bilinguals are those who link the two languages in their minds, coordinate bilinguals those who keep them apart.

connectionism; all mental processing depends on developing and using the connections in the mind

consciousness-raising: helping the learners by drawing attention to features of the second language

content words such as 'table' or 'truth' have meanings that can be found in dictionaries and consist of nouns, verbs, adjectives and (possibly) prepositions.

Contrastive Analysis: this compared the descriptions of two languages in grammar or pronunciation to discover the differences between them; these were then seen as difficulties for the students that needed to be taught

Conversation Analysis: the discipline that studies conversational interaction by close analysis of transcripts. (note: this is often abbreviated to CA; in the older SLA literature, however, CA stands for Contrastive Analysis, mentioned in Chapter 1)

correspondence rules: the rules in sound-based writing systems for connecting sounds to letters, i.e. the English phoneme /ei/ to the letter <a> and vice versa <a> to /ei/, /Q/ etc

critical period hypothesis: the claim that human beings are only capable of learning language between the age of 2 years and the early teens

declarative/procedural memory; the memory for individual items of information (declarative memory) is different from the memory processes for handling that information (procedural memory)

decoding versus codebreaking: processing language to get the ‘message’ versus processing language to get the ‘rules’

dialogue:  usually a short constructed piece of conversation used as a model of language and to introduce new words or structures

Direct method: essentially any method that relies on the second language throughout

distinctive feature: the minimal difference that may distinguish phonemes, such as voice and aspiration in ‘din’ and ‘tin’

drill: a form of mechanical practice in which words or phrases are substituted within a frame and practiced till it becomes automatic

élite bilingualism: either the choice by parents of bringing up children through two languages, or societies in which members of a ruling group speak a second language

English as Lingua Franca (ELF, sometimes LFE); the name for the kind of English that is used globally by non-native speakers for many kinds of international purposes

epenthesis: padding out the syllable by adding extra vowels or consonants, e.g. ‘Espain’ for ‘Spain’

Error Analysis (EA): this studied the language produced by L2 learners to establish its peculiarities, which it tried to explain in terms of the first language and other sources

even learners: these rely on both grammatical sensitivity and memory

extrovert and introvert: people’s personalities vary between those who relate to objects outside themselves (extroverts) and those who relate to the contents of their own minds (introverts)

false friends: words that are more or less the same in two languages but have different meanings

feedback: teacher evaluation of the student response

first language: chronologically the first language that a child learns

focus on form (FonF): discussion of grammar and vocabulary arising from meaningful language in the classroom

focus on formS: deliberate discussion of grammar without reference to meaning

four skills : language teaching can be divided into the four skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing; in the audio-lingual style, additionally, listening and reading are considered ‘passive’ skills, speaking and writing ‘active’ ones

functions of language: the reasons for which people use language such as persuading and arguing

good language learner strategies: the strategies employed by people known to be good at L2 learning

grammar: the system of relationships between elements of the sentence that links the ‘sounds’ to the ‘meanings’, using word order and word forms

grammar-translation method: the traditional academic style of teaching which placed heavy emphasis on grammar explanation and translation as a teaching technique

grammatical (linguistic) competence: the knowledge of language stored in a person’s mind

grammatical morphemes are morphemes such as ‘-ing’ and ‘the’ that play a greater part in structure than content words such as ‘horse’ (lexical morphemes)

hypercentral languages: a language that is used globally for international purposes as opposed to languages that are used more locally

immersion teaching: teaching the whole curriculum through the second language, best known from experiments in Canada

independent language assumption: the language of the L2 learner can be considered a language in its own right rather than a defective version of the target language (sometimes called interlanguage)

information gap: the idea of giving different students different pieces of information which they can exchange

initiation: the opening move by the teacher

instrumental motivation: learning the language for a career goal or other practical reason

integrative motivation: learning the language in order to take part in the culture of its people

integrativeness; how the learner relates to the target culture in various ways

interaction hypothesis: successful second language acquisition depends crucially on conversational interaction with others

internalisation: in Vygotsky’s theory the process through which the child turns the external social use of language into the internal mental use

intonation: the systematic rise and fall in the pitch of the voice during speech

L2 user and L2 learner: an L2 user uses the second lang­uage for real-life purposes; an L2 learner is acquiring a second lang­uage rather than using it

language awareness: helping the learners by raising awareness of language itself

language maintenance and bilingual language teaching: teaching to maintain the minority language within its group

leader and follower: in some types of conversation one person has the right to lead the conversation while the others follow his or her lead

learning strategy: a choice that the learner makes while learning or using the second language that affects learning

linguistic imperialism: the means by which a ‘Centre’ country dominates ‘Periphery’ countries by making them use its language

meaning-based writing system: a form of writing in which the written sign (character) connects directly to the meaning, as in Chinese characters

memory-based learners: these rely on their memory rather than gram­matical sensitivity

metacognitive strategies: these involve planning and directing learning at a general level

Minimalist Program Chomsky’s current working model that attempts to simplify the syntax to the minimum necessary for the human computational system to connect sounds and meanings

mnemnotechnics: ways of remembering new information by deliberately organising it and linking it to existing information in the mind

Modern Language Aptitude Test (MLAT): testing phonemic coding, grammatical sensitivity, inductive language learning ability, rote learning

morpheme: the smallest unit of grammar, consisting either of a word (‘toast’) or part of a word (‘’s’ in ‘John’s’)

morphology and syntax: morphology is the branch of linguistics that deals with the structure of morphemes, syntax the branch that deals with the structure of phrases above the level of the word

movement: a way of describing some sentences as being based on moving various elements about

multi-competence: the knowledge of more than one language in the same mind

multilingualism: countries where more than one language is used for everyday purposes

native speaker: ‘a person who has spoken a certain language since early childhood’ (McArthur, 1992)

negotiation for meaning: solving mutual difficulties in conversation by means of various conversational moves

nuclear tone: significant changes in pitch on one or more syllables.

number: this is a way of signalling how many entities are involved, for example through the forms of Nouns, Pronouns and Verbs. English has two numbers, singular (he) and plural (they).

official language: language(s) recognized by a country for official purposes

order of difficulty: the scale of difficulty for particular aspects of grammar for L2 learners

orthographic regularities: rules that govern how letters behave in English, such as <ck> corresponding to // occurring at the ends of syllables ‘back’, <c> at the beginning ‘cab’

parameters of language: systematic ways in which human languages vary, usually expressed as a choice between two options

parameters: aspects that vary from one language to another within tightly set limits, whether or not subjects are required in the sentence – the pro-drop parameter

parsing: the process through which the mind works out the grammatical structure and meaning of the sentence

passive and active: passive sentences express similar meanings to active sentences by shifting focus from the agent doing the object to the object enduring the action ‘I broke the mirror’/‘The mirror was broken’

phonemes: the sounds of a language that are systematically distinguished from each other, e.g. /t/ from /d/ in ‘din/din’

phonetic alphabet: a way of writing down the sounds of speech through a carefully designed set of symbols as in the IPA (International Phonetics Alphabet)

phonology and phonetics: phonology is the branch of linguistics that deals with the sound systems of language, phonetics the branch that deals with the sheer sounds themselves

phrase structure: this is a way of linking all the parts of a sentence together in a structure like that of a family tree by splitting the sentence into smaller and smaller bits.

postfigurative: a culture in which people learn from older wiser guardians of knowledge

prefigurative: a culture in which people learn from their juniors

preposition: prepositions are words like to, by and with which come before nouns to make Preposition Phrases. When they come after a Noun as in Japanese, they are called ‘postpositions’ Nippon ni (Japan in)

prescriptive grammar: grammar that ‘prescribes’ what people should say

principles of language: abstract principles that permit or prohibit certain structures from occurring in all human languages

processability; sequences of acquisition may reflect the ease with which certain structures can be processed by the mind

pro-drop parameter: whether or not subjects are required in the sentence

prototype theory; words have whole meanings divided into basic level ('car'), subordinate level ('Ford') and superordinate level ('vehicle')

recasts: rephrasing incorrect student utterances

reciprocal language teaching: a teaching method in which pairs of students alternately teach each other their languages

repair: the way that the speaker or listener gets the interaction back on course when something goes wrong

response: the student’s response to the teacher’s opening move

RP (received pronunciation): the usual accent of British English given in books about English, spoken by a small minority

scaffolding: the process that assists the learner in getting to the next point in development, in socio-cultural theory consisting of social assistance by other people rather than of physical resources such as dictionaries

schema (pl. schemas or schemata): the background knowledge on which the interpretation of a text depends

script: ‘a predetermined stereotyped sequence of actions that defines a well-known situation’ (Schank and Abelson, 1977)

second and foreign language: a second language is for immediate uses within the same country, a foreign language is for long-term future use in other countries

second language: ‘A language acquired by a person in addition to his mother tongue’ (UNESCO)

sensitization: helping the learners by alerting them to features of the first language

sequence of acquisition: the order in which L2 learners acquire the grammar, pronunciation etc of the language

sequence of development: the inevitable progression of learners through definite stages of acquisition

silent letter: a letter that does not correspond directly to a speech sound but often has indirect effects, e.g. <e> ‘fat’ versus ‘fate’, and <u> ‘guess’ versus ‘gesture’

situation: some teaching uses 'situation' to mean physical demonstration in the classroom, other teaching uses it to mean situations where the student will use the language in the world outside the classroom

social strategies: these involve interacting with other people

sound-based writing system: a form of writing in which the written sign connects to the spoken form, whether through syllables (Japanese, Korean) or consonant phonemes alone (Arabic, Hebrew) or both vowels and consonants (alphabetic languages like Greek, Urdu, or English)

spelling: the regularities in the way the letters are arranged in words

structural grammar: grammar concerned with how words go into phrases, phrases into sentences

structure (function) words such as articles 'the' and 'a' exist to form part of phrases and structures and so have meanings that are difficult to capture in the dictionary

subject pronoun: some languages show the role of nouns in the sentences with different case forms; in English this only applies to the pronouns – ‘she’ is the subject form, ‘her’ is the object form and so on

submersion teaching: extreme sink-or-swim form of assimilationist teaching in which minority language children are put in majority language classes

substitution table: a language teaching technique where students create sentences by choosing words from successive columns of a table

subtractive bilingualism: L2 learning that takes away from the learner’s capabilities

Suggestopedia: a teaching method aimed at avoiding the students' block about language learning through means such as listening to music

syllable structure: the way in which consonants (C) and vowels (V) may be combined into syllables in a particular language, for example English has CVC syllables while Japanese has CV

syllable: a unit of phonology consisting of a structure of phonemes

task: ‘A task is an activity which requires learners to use language, with emphasis on meaning, to attain a goal’ (Bygate, Skehan and Swain, 2001)

Task-based learning (TBL): this approach sees learning as arising from particular tasks the students do in the classroom and has been increasingly seen as a logical development from communicative language teaching.

teacher-talk: the speech supplied by the teacher rather than the students

tense: the relationship between the sentence and time is indicated by tense, in English having present and past tenses but no future tense. In English the two tense are shown by inflections ‘s’ and ‘ed’, having several regular and irregular forms

tone language: a language in which words are separated by intonation, for instance Chinese

top-down and bottom-up: starting from the sentence as a whole and working down to its smallest parts, versus starting from the smallest parts and working up

traditional grammar: ‘school’ grammar concerned with labelling sentences with parts of speech, etc

transfer: carrying over elements of one language one knows to another, whether L1 to L2 or L2 to L1 (reverse transfer

transitional L2 teaching: teaching that allows people to function in a major­ity language, without necessarily losing or devaluing the first language

Universal Grammar (UG): ‘the system of principles, conditions, and rules that are elements or properties of all human languages ... the essence of human language’ (Chomsky, 1976, p.29)

Universal Grammar: the language faculty built into the human mind consisting of principles and parameters

voice onset time (VOT): the moment when voicing starts during the production of a consonant

wh- questions: many languages have a difference between questions that demand a yes or no answer; ‘Can you drive a lorry?’ and questions are open-ended ‘What can you drive?’ The latter are called wh- questions in English because they involve question-words mostly starting with ‘wh’ such as ‘when’ and ‘who’

word frequency: simply measured by counting how often a word or word form occurs in a large sample of spoken or written language such as the British National Corpus (BNC)

word order: a major element in conveying grammatical meaning in some languages is word order, but not in all languages. A particular variation between languages is the order of Subject Verb and Object; SVO (English), VSO (Arabic), SOV (Japanese) etc

zone of proximal development (ZPD): to Vygotsky the gap between the child’s low point of development as measured individually and high point as measured on social tasks; in SLA research often used to refer tothe gap between the learner’s current stage and the next point on some developmental scale the learner is capable of reaching