The Center for Language Acquisition (CLA) is a research unit in the College of the Liberal Arts at The Pennsylvania State University.
SCT & SLL Research Working Group: XXth Annual Meeting
20th Sociocultural Theory and Second Language Learning Research Working Group Meeting
September 26-28, 2013
The XXth annual SCT & SLL Research Working Group Meeting was hosted by the Center for Language Acquisition and the Center for Advanced Language Proficiency Education and Research (CALPER) at Penn State.
This three-day event featured hour-long sessions involving 20-minute presentations of scholarly works in progress, followed by intensive audience feedback and discussion. Presenters and attendees hailed from a wide range of institutions and countries.
The full schedule of events is available here. Further information about the SCT & SLL Research Working Group, as well as links to previous years' meeting schedules, is available at sctresearch.org. Questions may be sent to email@example.com.
CLA INVITED SPEAKER SERIES
October 16: Lecture from Professor Charles Goodwin
Dr. Charles Goodwin, Professor of Applied Linguistics at UCLA, presented a lecture entitled:
"The Co-operative organization of human action"
Date: Wednesday, October 16
Time: 4:15-5:45 p.m.
Location: Foster Auditorium, Paterno Library
Human action is built by actively combining materials with intrinsically different properties: language, prosody, gesture, embodied participation frameworks, and materials in the environment. The simultaneous use of different kinds of resources to build single actions has a number of consequences. First, different actors can contribute diferent kinds of materials to the construction of a single action. Someone with aphasia who cannot produce lexical and syntactic structure can nonetheless contribute crucial prosodic and sequential materials to a local action, while appropriating others' lexical contributions, and thus become a powerful speaker in conversation, despite catastrophically impoverished language. Second, action can be built through transformations of the materials provided by a prior action. Third, the distributed, compositional structure of action provides a framework for developing the skills of newcomers within structured collaborative action. Combinatorial heterogeneity sits at the heart of human action in interaction, creating within the unfolding organization of situated activity the distinctive forms of transformative collaborative action in the world.
Charles Goodwin is Professor of Applied Linguistics at UCLA. His interests include video analysis of talk-in-interaction, cognition in the lived social world, aphasia in discourse, languagein the professions, and the ethnography of science. His publications include Rethinking Context (co-edited with Alessandro Duranti), Cambridge, 1992), Conversation and Brain Damage (Oxford, 2003), and a wide range of journal articles.
November 13: Lecture from Professor Michael Ullman
Dr. Michael Ullman, Professor of Neuroscience, Linguistics and Psychology at Georgetown University, gave the following lecture:
"Do we learn language in the same brain systems that rats use to learn a maze? Evidence from a multidisciplinary investigation of first and second language"
Date: Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Time: 3:45-5:15 p.m.
Location: 112 Chambers
Increasing evidence suggests that language learning and use crucially depend on two long-term memory systems in the brain, declarative memory and procedural memory. Because the behavioral, anatomical, physiological, cellular and genetic correlates of these two systems are quite well-studied in animals and humans, they lead to specific predictions about language that would not likely be made in the more limited study of language alone. This approach is thus very powerful in being able to generate a wide range of new predictions for language -- including for first and second language, individual differences, and a range of language disorders.
I will first give some background on the two memory systems, and then discuss the manner in which language is predicted to depend on them. One of the key concepts is that to some extent the two systems can subserve the same functions (e.g., for navigation, grammar, etc.), and thus they play at least partly reduandant roles for these functions. This has a variety of important consequences for normal and disordered language. I will then present multidisiplinary evidence (behavioral, neurological, neuroimaging, electrophysiological) that basic aspects of language do indeed depend on the two memory systems, though in different ways across different unimpaired and impaired populations. I will discuss normal first and second language, individual and group differences (e.g, sex differences), and our work on disorders, focusing on developmental disorders (e.g., Specific Language Impairment, dyslexia, autism, and Tourette syndrome.)
Dr. Ullman is Professor in the Department of Neuroscience, with secondary appointments in the Departments of Neurology, Linguistics and Psychology, at Georgetown University. He is Director of the Brain and Language Laboratory and the Georgetown EEG/ERP Lab. His research examines the brain bases of first and second language, how language and memory are affected in various disorders (e.g., autism, Specific Language Impairment, aphasia, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and Huntington's diseases), and how such factors as sex, handedness, and genetic variability affect the brain bases of language and memory.
April 8, 2013: Watz Memorial Lecture from Merrill Swain
Dr. Merrill Swain, Professor of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto, presented the 2013 Gil Watz Memorial Lecture:
"Affective and Cognitive Enhancement Among Older Adults: The Role of Languaging"
Date & Time: Monday, April 8, 2013 at 2:30 p.m.
Location: Foster Auditorium (Paterno Library)
Global rates of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) converge in the 14-18% range for persons aged 70 years and older. One possible source of MCI among older adults may lie in teh lack of opportunities they have to use language. If opportunities are limited, then cognitive loss rather than cognitive maintenance or development might occur. In this talk, I will discuss three exploratory case studies of residents with MCI who were living in a long-term care facility and who raely engaged in conversations with staff, other reisdents or visitors. Each of these residents engaged in "languaging" activities with a researcher during a two-to three-month period. Languaging is the use of language to mediate higher mental cognitive and affective processes.
I will discuss both the theoretical foundations of the study and the results. The theoretical basis draws on Vygotsky's work which proposed language as one of the most important mediating tools that human beings have at their disposal for the development and use of higher mental processes. Vygotsky also argued that cognition and emotion are inextricably intertwined. Based on these ideas, our research explored the cognitive/affective consequences of languaging for our three participating residents.
Merrill Swain is Professor Emerita of Second Language Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education in Canada. Her research focuses on sociocultural approaches to the teaching and learning of second languages in immersion programs and in traditional language learning classroom settings. She has received numerous awards for her outstanding contribution to the field of second language acquisition, notably for work on communicative competence, the Output Hypothesis, and innovative approaches to second language classroom research methodologies.
April 19, 2013: Lecture from Professor Diane Larsen-Freeman
Dr. Diane Larsen-Freeman, Professor of Education and Linguistics at the University of Michigan, delivered the following lecture:
"On the Non-Telic Nature of Language and its Learning"
Date and Time: Friday, April 19 at 2:30 p.m.
Location: 104 Keller
Traditional views of language are inadequate for explaining well-attested examples of linguistic creativity. Language users are not mere hosts of language (Kroskrity, 2004). They extend their linguistic worlds (Thibault, 2011). The same can be said for language learners. Nevertheless, language learning is often viewed as a teleological phenomenon, with an implicit endpoint. In this presentation, I will suggest that language is not telic, nor is its learning. The dilemma then becomes how to reconcile the non-telic nature of language and its learning with the normativity of teaching.
Diane Larsen-Freeman is Professor of Education and Linguistics at the University of Michigan. Her primary research areas include second language acquisition, grammar in English language teaching, and chaos/ complexity theory in relation to language learning. Recent works include Language as a Complex Dynamic System (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), and Complex Systems and Applied Linguistics (Oxford University Press, 2008), winner of the 2009 Mildenberger Award from the Modern Language Association. Dr. Larsen-Freeman has also authored multiple foundational works in second language teacher education, including Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching (Oxford University Press, 2011),Teaching Language: From Grammar to Grammaring (Heinle & Heinle, 2003) and An Introduction to Second Language Acquisition Research (with M. Long, Longman, 1991).
Fall 2012 Invited Speakers
October 22, 2012: Lecture from Professor David Bakhurst
David Bakhurst, Professor of Philosophy at Queen's University, presented an invited lecture:
"Learning from Others"
Date and Time: Monday, October 22, 2012 at 4 p.m.
Location: 358 Willard Building
John McDowell begins his essay ‘Knowledge by Hearsay’ (1993) by describing two ways language matters to epistemology. The first is that, by understanding and accepting someone else’s utterance, a person can acquire knowledge. This is what philosophers call ‘knowledge by testimony’. The second is that children acquire knowledge in the course of learning their first language—in acquiring language, a child inherits a conception of the world. In The Formation of Reason (2011), and my writings on Russian socio-historical philosophy and psychology, I address issues bearing on the second of these topics, questions about the child’s development through initiation into language and other forms of social being. In this paper, I focus on the first: the epistemology of testimony. After expounding a view of testimony inspired by McDowell, and supplemented by ideas from Sebastian Rödl, I consider how such an account illuminates two issues in philosophy of education: the extent of an individual’s epistemic dependence upon others and the nature of teaching.
David Bakhurst is Charlton Professor of Philosophy at Queen's University in Canada. His research focuses on Russian philosophy, philosophical psychology, and moral philosophy. He has written extensively on the work of Soviet philosopher Evald Ilyenkov, psychologist Lev Vygotsky, language philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, and educational psychologist Jerome Bruner.
November 5, 2012: Lecture from Professor John Schumann
John Schumann, Professor of Applied Linguistics at UCLA, gave a lecture entitled:
"Evolution and Second Language Acquisition"
Date and Time: Monday, November 5, 2012 at 4 p.m.
Location: 358 Willard Building
Our species has never had sufficient evolutionary pressure to develop neural systems that would guarantee SLA in older learners (Hagen, 2008). In our environment of evolutionary adaptation, we lived in small groups that were isolated from others. But when groups speaking different languages did come into contact, we found various strategies to deal with communication problems. None of these strategies solved the adult SLA problem; they simply provided workarounds that allowed us to cope with it.
- Since all brains are different (Edelman, 1992; Schumann, 1997), within any population there would have been certain adults with a neural hypertrophy that would allow them to acquire an L2 and function as interpreters.
- If the contact between the two groups was cooperative and long-lasting, there would have been intermarriage, and the children would be brought up bilingually (Ostler, 2010). This would shift the L2 acquisition from adults to children for whom it is easier.
- The development of a lingua franca (Ostler, 2010) (e.g., Sabir, Greek, Persian, French, English) would reduce the language learning burden to one L2.
- In some cases, the lingua franca would become one of the first languages of the children (e.g., India), again shifting the language acquisition task to children (Ostler, 2010)).
- With the acquisition of a language by an immigrant group, the L2 would become simplified and easier to learn (McWhorter, 2007).
- In colonies, immigrants speaking many different languages often developed pidgins or creoles which required minimal acquisition effort (McWhorter, 2004).
- Sprachbunds developed where languages become similar to each other, easing the L2 burden (McWhorter, 2004).
- The development of specialized institutions that select only talented learners and provide them with special instruction (e.g., US Army Language School).
- The provision of immersion education in an L2, shifting the acquisition task to children.
- The development of translation technology (Ostler, 2010).
John Schumann is Professor of Applied Linguistics at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). His primary research interests are language acquisition, language evolution, and the neurobiology of language. Major publications include The Neurobiology of Affect in Language (Blackwell, 1997), The Neurobiology of Learning: Perspectives from Second Language Acquisition (Routledge, 2004), and The Interactional Instinct: The Evolution and Acquisition of Language (Oxford University Press, 2009).
CLA Travel Grants
Travel grants are available through the Center for graduate students for travel to/from conferences.
Download the Center for Language Acquisition travel grant application
Students may also apply for Department of Applied Linguistics travel grants.
Download the Applied Linguistics travel grant application
Notice: The Center and Applied Linguistics forms used for submitting requests for travel funding have both been updated. Please review the latest form, and verify that you are using this version when submitting a travel request.
Gil Watz Dissertation Grants
The Center for Language Acquisition, in conjunction with the College of the Liberal Arts, provides up to five dissertation research awards per academic year for doctoral students working on a dissertation in applied linguistics. For more information click here.
Gil Watz Visiting Scholars Program
Search Penn State
Sep 26, 2013Sociocultural Theory and Second Language Learning Research Working Group
20th Annual Sociocultural Theory and Second Language Learning Research Working Group Meeting September 26-28, 2013 ...
→ Read more
Oct 16, 2013Invited Lecture: Goodwin
Dr. Charles Goodwin, Professor of Applied Linguistics at UCLA, presented a lecture entitled: "The Co-operativ...
→ Read more
Nov 13, 2013Invited Lecture: Ullman
Dr. Michael Ullman, Professor of Neuroscience, Linguistics and Psychology at Georgetown University, gave the following lectur...
→ Read more