Processing Instruction: Theory, Research, and Commentary

Processing Instruction: Theory, Research, and Commentary

Processing Instruction: Theory, Research, and Commentary

Processing Instruction: Theory, Research, and Commentary

Synopsis

This new book, Processing Instruction: Theory, Research, and Commentary, edited by Bill VanPatten-a pioneer in processing instruction-is a refreshing presentation of 10 related and not widely available articles that illustrate the role of processing instruction in second language acquisition. The articles provide both historical and current context, as well as describe the influence of the input processing model on PI. The contents include empirical papers presenting new data that demonstrate both the theoretical and pedagogical threads of research. Aside from simply establishing where PI stands in the field of instructed SLA, the book addresses issues, such as processing instruction versus other types of instruction; the impact of processing instruction on various linguistic structures; the role of explicit information in instructional intervention; and the long-term effects of processing instruction. Each section of the book is highlighted by commentaries from noted researchers in instructed SLA. An attempt was made to include voices that offer critical perspectives on various issues of PI research. The book achieves an unusually balanced approach to a subject that has stirred debate in the field. Processing Instruction: Theory, Research, and Commentary will serve as an important source of information regarding research methodology and replication in second language acquisition. It will also be useful in graduate courses where students need exposure to research design and is especially useful for illustrating the usefulness of replication in SLA research.

Excerpt

Without a doubt, second language acquisition (SLA) is complex. It is complex for at least two reasons. It involves the acquisition of a complex implicit linguistic system consisting of lexical entries and their features and forms, an abstract syntactic system, a phonological system, and rules on pragmatic use of language, among other components related to language. In addition, acquisition cannot be reduced to a single process. SLA is best conceived of as involving multiple processes that in turn may contain subprocesses that work at every stage of acquisition.

This chapter is concerned with only one of the processes involved in SLA, the initial process by which learners connect grammatical forms with their meanings as well as how they interpret the roles of nouns in relationship to verbs. This process is termed input processing (cf., Chaudron, 1985). In earlier work, I have discussed input processing vis a vis four principles that guide learner attention to linguistic form in the input. Here I will review those principles and expand on them. Before doing so, several points need clarification. The first is that any model of input processing is not per se a model or theory of acquisition. As mentioned previously, acquisition consists of multiple processes. Thus, the mechanisms responsible for how learners restructure grammars (e.g., reset parameters, regularize forms and structures) fall outside the domain of input processing. Likewise, how learners come to be able to produce language for communicative purposes also falls outside the domain of input processing, as do whatever factors or mechanisms are involved in the acquisition of fluency and accuracy in output.

A second very important point is that a model of input processing such as the one presented here is not intended as a final state model; that is, I am not . . .

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