Perspectives from Formal Linguistics on Second Language Acquisition

Alan Juffs

in The Oxford Handbook of Applied Linguistics

Second edition

Published in print September 2010 | ISBN: 9780195384253
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Perspectives from Formal Linguistics on Second Language Acquisition

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  • Linguistics
  • Language Acquisition



The importance of formal linguistics on second language acquisition is the basis of this article. Before considering the contributions of formal linguistics to the study of second language acquisition, a definition of formal linguistics is necessary. Linguists disagree on the scope of formal linguistics, so any definition of the field will be controversial. For clarity, this article understands formal linguistics to be a theory of natural language that meets the requirements of explanatory adequacy. Linguistic theories have an “essential but not exclusive” role to play in studies of language acquisition. Their position is adopted in this overview—formal theories have a major role to play in one sub domain of a general theory of SLA. Linguistic competence is the tacit knowledge of the abstract properties of the language(s) we speak. Formal linguistics does not address issues of language use directly. Formal linguistic theory has a crucial role in the explanation of second language linguistic competence.

Keywords: formal linguistics; second language acquisition; applied linguistics; linguistics; natural language; linguistic competence

Article.  7727 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Language Acquisition

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