Second Language Acquisition

Useful links to sites and papers related to First and Second Language Acquisition (in no particular order)

Stephen D Krashen

Stephen Krashen has published more than 350 papers and books, contributing to the fields of second-language acquisition, bilingual education, and reading. He is credited with introducing various influential concepts and terms in the study of second-language acquisition, including the Acquisition-Learning hypothesis, the Input hypothesis, the Monitor hypothesis, the Affective Filter hypothesis, and the Natural Order hypothesis.which he outlines in his book, Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition. Most recently, Krashen promotes the use of free voluntary reading during second-language acquisition, which he says “is the most powerful tool we have in language education, first and second.”

N. S. Prabhu

Credited as one of the fathers of Task Based Language Learning (TBLL), I think his book on his theories, application, and experiences with it on the Bangalore Project in the early 1980s should be required reading for all novice and in service EFL and ESL teaching practitioners.

Please note that many recent books on the subject of TBLL and TBLT differ significantly from the original conception by Henry Widdowson and N. S. Prabhu and are indistinguishable from mainstream present-practice-produce (PPP) learning and teaching approaches. For an informative paper on what has frequently happened to TBLL in teaching practice, see: “Tinkering with tasks knows no bounds: ESL Teachers’ Adaptations of Task-Based Language-Teaching” (PDF) by John L. Plews and Kangxian Zhao, TESL CANADA JOURNAL/REVUE TESL DU CANADA, VOL. 28, NO 1, WINTER 2010.

Brian MacWhinney

Brian MacWhinney is a prolific researcher and writer specialising in first and second language acquisition, psycholinguistics and the neurological bases of language. He’s best known for the Competition Model of language acquisition and his most recent publications focus on identifying a Unified Model for both first and second language acquisition.

Beniko Mason

Beniko Mason does interesting and surprising research into comprehensible input based learning and teaching theory and practice. Her research has shown that not only are extensive (ER) and free voluntary reading (FVR) programmes effective for second language acquisition but that they are also more efficient than traditional classroom teaching practices and even as TOEIC and TOEFL test preparation courses.

Rod Ellis

Professor Ellis, a renowned linguist, received his Doctorate from the University of London and his Master of Education from the University of Bristol. A former professor at Temple University both in Japan and the US. Prof. Ellis has taught in numerous positions in England, Japan, the US, Zambia and New Zealand. Dr. Ellis, who is known as the “Father of Second Language Acquisition”, has served as the Director of the Institute of Language Teaching and Learning at the University of Auckland. Author of numerous student and teacher training textbooks for Prentice Hall and Oxford University Press, Prof. Ellis’s textbooks on Second Language Acquisition and Grammar are core textbooks in TESOL and Linguistics programs around the world.

Michael Tomasello

Michael Tomasello has worked to identify the unique cognitive and cultural processes that distinguish humans from their nearest primate relatives, the great apes. He studies the social cognition of great apes at the Wolfgang Köhler Primate Research Center in Leipzig. In his developmental research he has focused on how human children become cooperating members of cultural groups, focusing in recent years on uniquely human skills and motivations for shared intentionality: joint intentions, joint attention, collaboration, prosocial motives, and social norms.

Tomasello also works on child language acquisition as a crucially important aspect of the enculturation process. He is a critic of Noam Chomsky’s Universal Grammar, rejecting the idea of an innate universal grammar and instead proposing a functional theory of language development (sometimes called the social-pragmatic approach to language acquisition) in which children learn linguistic structures through intention-reading and pattern-finding in their discourse interactions with others.

Rob Waring

Rob Waring is an Associate professor at Notre Dame Seishin Women’s University in Okayama, Japan. His research interests include Extensive Reading and Listening, vocabulary acquisition and reading. He is co-author of the Foundations Reading Library and series editor of Page Turners Reading Library and Footprint Reading Library all by Heinle Cengage.

Michael Long

Michael Long is Professor of Second Language Acquisition at the University of Maryland, College Park. Long introduced the concept of focus on form, which entails bringing linguistic elements (e.g., vocabulary, grammatical structures, collocations) to students’ attention within the larger context of a meaning-based lesson in order to anticipate or correct problems in comprehension or production of the target language. Long contrasted this approach with the older method of focus on formS, which calls for exclusive focus on the linguistic forms when teaching a target language, often consisting of drill-type exercises such as conjugation exercises. Long is also usually credited for introducing the Interaction Hypothesis, a theory of second language acquisition which places importance on face-to-face interaction.

Thomas S C Farrell

Thomas S. C. Farrell is a professor in applied linguistics at Brock University, Canada. He has been involved with ESL and applied linguistics for the past 27 years and has written extensively on topics such as reflective practice, language teacher development, and language teacher education. His recent books include Reflective Practice in Action (2004, Corwin Press), Reflecting on Classroom Communication in Asia (2004, Longman), and Professional Development for Language Teachers (2005, Cambridge University Press, coauthored with Jack Richards).

Joan Wink

Joan Wink is professor emerita of California State University, Stanislaus. Throughout her career, she has focused on languages, literacy, and learning in pluralistic contexts. She is the author of Critical Pedagogy: Notes from the Real World, 4/e, A Vision of Vygotsky with LeAnn G. Putney, and Teaching Passionately: What’s Love Got To Do With It? with Dawn Wink, her daughter.

Ken Goodman

Kenneth Goodman is Professor Emeritus, Language Reading and Culture, at the University of Arizona. He is best known for developing the theory underlying the literacy philosophy of whole language. Goodman’s concept of written language development views it as parallel to oral language development. Goodman’s theory was a basis for the whole language movement, which was further developed by Yetta Goodman, Regie Routman, Frank Smith and others.

John Truscott

Kurt Kohn

Kurt Kohn is Director of the Steinbeis Transfer Centre Language Learning Media and Professor Emeritus of Applied English Linguistics at the University of Tübingen (Germany). His teacher education and research interests focus on elearning for languages, intercultural communicative competence development, English as a linguage franca (ELF), and translation/interpreting. His theoretical and methodological approach is shaped by a social constructivist understanding of language competence, use and acquisition. As regards ELF research and pedagogy, he emphasizes the “my English condition” and argues for a pedagogical approach that helps learners explore and develop their own non native speaker creativity while being guided by a “weak” Standard English orientation.

Zoltán Dörnyei

Zoltán Dörnyei is Professor of Psycholinguistics at the University of Nottingham, UK. He research centres around motivation in second language learning and individual differences in second language acquisition, especially attitudes and motivation, psychological aspects of second language acquisition, and psychological processes in the second language classroom, especially group dynamics.

Diane Larsen-Freeman

Diane Larsen-Freeman received her PhD in linguistics from the University of Michigan. Following appointments at UCLA and the Graduate SIT Institute (where she remains affiliated as distinguished senior faculty fellow), she returned to the University of Michigan in January 2002 to direct the English Language Institute for six years. She is currently a research scientist at the English Language Institute, as well as a professor of education, professor of linguistics, and faculty associate of the Center for the Study of Complex Systems at Michigan. Her interests include second language acquisition, language teacher education, English linguistics, language teaching methodology, and complexity theory. Larsen-Freeman has made presentations in sixty-five countries around the world and is the author of eight books. She was the editor of the journal Language Learning for five years.

Larsen-Freeman focuses her research and interests on attempting to understand the process of second language acquisition. She also researches English grammar. She regards English grammar not only as a set of structural patterns, but also as an important resource for making meaning and for adapting language appropriately to the communicative context. In addition, she has found that chaos/complexity theory provides new insights into language, its acquisition, and its use. She sees all three as complex, non-linear, dynamic processes. Such a perspective has contributed to her dynamic view of language, which she has applied to teaching grammar, or “grammaring” as she calls it. The approach also acknowledges the individual paths that students chart to second language success and views teaching as fundamentally a process of managing learning.


Thor May

I think Thor May could be described as the Alfie Kohn of Second Language Acquisition. He writes analytical and critical articles addressing a variety of issues for teachers and teaching organisations and institutions, in EFL, ESL, and EAP. Although he’s an experienced researcher and accomplished academic writer, he also finds time to write lucid, well-informed, coherent, and ultimately highly readable articles that are accessible to linguists and teachers alike.

Thor May’s PhD dissertation, Language Tangle, dealt with language teaching productivity. Thor has been teaching English to non-native speakers, training teachers and lecturing linguistics, since 1976. This work has taken him to seven countries in Oceania and East Asia, mostly with tertiary students, but with a couple of detours to teach secondary students and young children. He has trained teachers in Australia, Fiji and South Korea. In an earlier life, prior to becoming a teacher, he had a decade of drifting through unskilled jobs in Australia, New Zealand and finally England (after backpacking across Asia in 1972).

William O’Grady

“My research in the field of language acquisition encompasses problems of learnability and development. My recent views on these matters are outlined in Syntactic Carpentry, which proposes that the processor allows language learners to overcome deficiencies in the input that are traditionally interpreted as evidence for an inborn Universal Grammar. I have also written a book for a general audience on the acquisition of English—How Children Learn Language (Cambridge University Press, 2005), as well as various technical papers available for downloading from this site.”

Dorothy Bishop

Dorothy Bishop is Professor of Developmental Neuropsychology and a Wellcome Principal Research Fellow at the Department of Experimental Psychology in Oxford and Adjunct Professor at The University of Western Australia, Perth. She’s also a science writer and regularly publishes articles on her blog ranging from critiques of Noam Chomsky’s Language Acquisition Device (LAD) hypothesis, AKA Universal Grammar, to current research into Neurolinguistics and Neuropsychology, to issues related to science writing and popular journalism.

Dwight Atkinson

From Dwight’s personal faculty page, “Dwight Atkinson is an applied linguist and second language educator who specializes in writing (first and second language), qualitative research approaches, and second language acquisition. Current projects include an attempt to establish a view of second language acquisition on “sociocognitive” principles, research in India on the experiences of vernacular language-schooled students in English-language universities, and a booklength study of different theories of culture impacting TESOL and applied linguistics. Past work has covered a wide variety of topics, from the history of medical and scientific research writing in English, to critiques of commonly used concepts in university writing instruction such as critical thinking and voice, to explorations of the concept of culture, to writings on qualitative research methods. Atkinson teaches courses in qualitative research, postmodernism, and second language acquisition at Purdue, where he is an assistant professor of English.


SLA and linguistics focused journals that are published for open access. If you know of any more, please let me know and I’ll add them to the list (All articles in all publications must be publicly accessible):


The links on this page are personally gathered, viewed and assessed by Matt Bury. They are included purely on the basis of relevance to the areas of elearning, and second language acquisition theory and practice. This is a non sponsored and impartial blog that reflects Matt Bury’s interests and activities. It does not include links to web pages, web sites or services from commercial organisations. Any requests to include them will be ingnored.

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