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Seeking consensus: Generative linguistics and language teaching


By: Melinda Whong

With the emphasis on meaning and interaction inherent to functional and cognitive approaches to linguistics, the application of these theoretical frameworks to language pedagogy can be seen in the general acceptance of communicative approaches to language teaching today. This paper asks whether generative linguistics is also relevant for language teaching practitioners.

The Chomskyan revolution in the early years of generativism led to a general acceptance that learner language develops in stages, and adheres to a degree of systematicity. Beyond these broad generalisations, however, it may not always be apparent how specific research in generative second language acquisition is of relevance to the language classroom. Yet arguably, several decades of research now leave us at a point where there is a degree of consensus such that useful applications from generative linguistics can be articulated. Moreover, this branch of linguistics can be seen as coming closer to more cognitive understandings of language and language development through recent work that draws on developments in psycholinguistics. The Modular On-line Growth and Use of Language (MOGUL), proposed by Sharwood Smith and Truscott, maintains a generative view of language while accommodating broader notions of language development in order to provide an accessible framework of language relevant to adult second language teaching. This paper explores this framework, attempting throughout to make explicit the implications for teaching that arise from theoretical research in generative linguistics and second language acquisition.

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