Second Language Acquisition: A Social Psychological Perspective

Robert C. Gardner

in The Oxford Handbook of Applied Linguistics

Second edition

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Second Language Acquisition: A Social Psychological Perspective

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  • Linguistics
  • Language Acquisition
  • Sociolinguistics



This article focuses on second language acquisition seen from a social psychological perspective. The basic premise underlying a social psychological perspective of second language acquisition is that language is a defining characteristic of the individual. It is involved in one's thoughts, self-communication, social interaction, and perception of the world. Moreover, language is a defining attribute of cultural groups. It serves to distinguish one group from another, and thus to reflect one's cultural identity. Thus, to learn a second language involves, to some extent, making part of another cultural group part of one's self, even if this is only the vocabulary, sounds, verbal forms, and so forth of that group. That is, the language is more than a symbolic system that facilitates communication among individuals; it is a defining feature of self-identity linked directly to the very social existence of the individual. The future looks bright, but continued research focusing on empirical findings represents its greatest strength.

Keywords: acquisition; language acquisition; second language acquisition; social psychological; self-communication; cultural groups; empirical findings

Article.  6061 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Language Acquisition ; Sociolinguistics

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