Second Language Acquisition
The academic discipline of second-language acquisition is a subdiscipline of applied linguistics. It is broad-based and relatively new. As well as the various branches of linguistics, second-language acquisition is also closely related to psychology, cognitive psychology, and education. To separate the academic discipline from the learning process itself, the terms second-language acquisition research, second-language studies, and second-language acquisition studies are also used.
SLA research began as an interdisciplinary field, and because of this it is difficult to identify a precise starting date. However, two papers in particular are seen as instrumental to the development of the modern study of SLA: Pit Corder’s 1967 essay The Significance of Learners’ Errors, and Larry Selinker’s 1972 article Interlanguage. The field saw a great deal of development in the following decades. By the year 2010, second-language acquisition was studied from a wide variety of disciplinary perspectives, and there was a proliferation of different theories. However, the main two approaches were linguistic theories based upon Noam Chomsky’s universal grammar, and psychological theories such as skill acquisition skills and connectionism.
The term acquisition was originally used to emphasize the subconscious nature of the learning process, but in recent years learning and acquisition have become largely synonymous.
Second-language acquisition can incorporate heritage language learning, but it does not usually incorporate bilinguism. Most SLA researchers see bilingualism as being the end result of learning a language, not the process itself, and see the term as referring to native-like fluency. Writers in fields such as education and psychology, however, often use bilingualism loosely to refer to all forms of multilinguism. Second-language acquisition is also not to be contrasted with the acquisition of a foreign langauge; rather, the learning of second languages and the learning of foreign languages involve the same fundamental processes in different situations.
There has been much debate about exactly how language is learned, and many issues are still unresolved. There are many theories of second-language acquisition, but none are accepted as a complete explanation by all SLA researchers. Due to the interdisciplinary nature of the field of second-language acquisition, this is not expected to happen in the foreseeable future.