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Complexity Theory and Language Development

In celebration of Diane Larsen-Freeman

Complexity Theory and Language Development by Lourdes Ortega
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This chapter takes a system view on second language (L2) development. However, unlike proponents of Complex Dynamic Systems Theory (CDST) viewing the developmental system as ever dynamic without a finite state, we take up a long-standing observation about a signature L2 phenomenon, inter-learner differential attainment, and theorize about its ontology. Drawing on a fundamental physics law, the Law of Conservation of Energy – importantly, not only conceptually but also mathematically – we lay out the key parameters and their interactional relationship in engineering L2 differential attainment. The parameters include aptitude, motivation, L2 input, and L1-TL distance, all of them interacting over time vis-à-vis the developmental positioning of the learner once s/he enters the field of learning, another concept key to the system view we expound in this chapter. The resulting theory, Energy Conservation Theory in L2 or ECT-L2, promises broad descriptive, explanatory, and predictive powers. We discuss the theory in conjunction with CDST, arguing for their complementarity.
John Benjamins Publishing Company; November 2017
250 pages; ISBN 9789027264961
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Title: Complexity Theory and Language Development
Author: Lourdes Ortega; ZhaoHong Han