2012-13 Lecture Series: Language, Cognition and Sociality
Learning Language in MindBodyWorld: Alignment and Interaction in a Sociocognitive Approach to Second Language Acquisition
Comments from Margaret Hawkins, Department of Curriculum and Instruction
4:00 pm, Wednesday, October 17, 2012
254 Van Hise Hall, 1220 Linden Drive
Abstract: How might interaction contribute to SLA? Five responses to five basic questions suggest an answer:
1) What is intelligence?
Intelligence (aka cognition) is adaptive intelligence--the suite of evolutionarily evolved capacities which keep humans viable in a complex and dynamic ecosocial environment.
2) What is interaction?
Interaction is social action--action produced by two or more entities forming a sociocognitive unit. So defined, interaction has been our primary adaptive strategy, providing a selective evolutionary advantage. Interactional skills are therefore a form of intelligence.
3) What is alignment?
Sociocognitive units are formed and managed through alignment, the processes and structures by which human beings ongoingly co-construct and coordinate their activities.
4) What is learning?
Learning is adaptive change in the organism-plus-environment, from an organismic perspective. Human brains and bodies are evolutionarily designed for learning via interaction/alignment, through which sociocultural practices, including language, are developed and transmitted person to person and generation to generation.
5) How does alignment work in language learning?
Language learning occurs in the integrated sociocognitive space between 1) individuals and 2) individuals and human-designed phenomena (e.g., computers) as they interact/align. Through interacting/aligning in this semi-public space, we are able to experience the sense/meaning/value accorded the phenomena to be learned. For example, when a speaker looks at an object while labeling that object, the auditor is afforded a real-world index of the object's meaning--gaze and language work together to make publicly available sense of the world.
In fact, all semiotic activities are enacted and embedded in the body-plus-environment via multiple sense-making modalities, and through fine-grained attunement to these modalities our learning is enabled and enhanced. This is the mechanism of alignment.
In the second part of this presentation, I analyze a video of an L2 learning activity for evidence that alignment is pervasive and relevant to L2 learning.
This lecture is free and open to the public. Sponsored by the Language Institute, with funding from the Anonymous Fund. For more information or accommodations, contact: Dianna Murphy, (608) 262-1473.