Yıl 2020, Cilt 9 , Sayı 1, Sayfalar 71 - 89 2020-08-06

A Critical Review on The Components of Processability Theory: Identifying the Limitations

Hilal PEKER [1] , Esma TOPRAK-CELEN [2]


There has been a tendency among the second language acquisition/learning theorists to make generalization about the stages that learners go through in learning a second language (L2). Processability Theory, developed by Pienemann (1998), is one of those theories. It is argued in Processability Theory that learners can learn an L2 in an order that they are capable of at specific times. In other words, learners acquire/learn L2s in a predictable order, which is called ‘developmental trajectory’. This article reviews Processability Theory from a critical perspective and investigates the limitations of and ambiguities in the theory through examining previous studies. The issues discussed in this paper include the hierarchical order, hypothesis space, grammar and lexicon, operational definition of language processor and its connection to Neurolinguistics and working memory, overgeneralization of features to all languages, and lexical functional grammar. Based on the review of these issues, it is proposed that Processability Theory may need some modifications and amendments in near future, as there is a need for more empirical studies.
Processability theory, processability hierarchy, second language acquisition, working memory, lexical-functional grammar, individual differences in language learning
  • Alhawary, M. T. (2003). Processability theory: Counter-evidence from Arabic second language acquisition data. Al-’Arabiyya, 36, 107-166.
  • Baddeley, A. D. (2015). Working memory in second language learning. In Z. Wen, M. B. Mota, & A. McNeill (Eds.), Working memory in second language acquisition and processing (pp. 17-28). Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.
  • Bonilla, C. L. (2015). From number agreement to subjunctive: Evidence for processability theory in L2 Spanish. Second Language Research, 31(1), 53-74.
  • Bresnan, J. (2001). Lexical-functional syntax. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

  • Buyl, A., & Housen, A. (2015). Developmental stages in receptive grammar acquisition: A processability theory account. Second Language Research, 31(4), 523-550.
  • Cooper, D. (1999). Linguistic attractors: The cognitive dynamics of language acquisition and change. Amsterdam, Netherlands: John Benjamins.
  • Côté, S. (2020) Examining Processability Theory's predictions for grammatical gender agreement in intermediate L2 French. Int J Appl Linguist. 1(14). doi: 10.1111/ijal.12287
  • DeKeyser, R. (2015). Skill acquisition theory. In B. VanPatten, & J. Williams (Eds.), Theories in second language acquisition: An introduction (pp. 94-112). New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Do, T., Utiyama, M., & Sumita, E. (2015). Machine translation from Japanese and French to Vietnamese, the difference among language families. 2015 International Conference on Asian Language Processing (IALP). doi:10.1109/ialp.2015.7451521
  • Dyson, B. (2009). Processability theory and the role of morphology in English as a second language development: A longitudinal study. Second Language Research, 25(3), 355-376.
  • Eguchi, A., & Sugiura, M. (2015). Applicability of processability theory to Japanese adolescent EFL learners: A case study of early L2 syntactic and morphological development. System, 52, 115-126.
  • Escamilla, K., & Grassi, E. (2000). A brief description of second language acquisition. From the Professional Development Resource Series, “Second Language Acquisition”, BUENO Center, University of Colorado, Boulder.
  • Frawley, W. (1997). Vygotsky and cognitive science: Language and the unification of the social and computational mind. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Gass, S. M. (1993). Second language acquisition: Past, present, and future. Second Language Research, 9(2), 99-117.
  • Gass, S. M., & Mackey, A. (2015). Input, interaction, and output in second language acquisition. In B. VanPatten, & J. Williams (Eds.), Theories in second language acquisition: An introduction (pp. 207-226). New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Hadidi Tamjid, N. (2008). Chaos/ complexity theory in second language acquisition. Novitas- Royal, 1(1), 10-17.
  • Håkansson, G., & Norrby, C. (2010). Environmental influence on language acquisition: comparing second and foreign language acquisition of Swedish. Language Learning: A Journal of Research in Language Studies, 60(3), 628–650. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9922.2010.00569.x
  • Hiver, P., & Larsen-Freeman, D. (2020). Motivation: It is a relational system. In A. H. Al-Hoorie & P. D. MacIntyre (Eds.), Comtemporary language motivation theory: 60 years since Gardner and Lambert (1959) (pp. n. d.). Bristol, England: Multilingual Matters.
  • Horwitz, E. K. (2010). Foreign and second language anxiety. Language Teaching, 43(2), 154-167. doi:10.1017/s026144480999036x.
  • Horwitz, E. K., Horwitz, M. B., & Cope, J. (1986). Foreign language classroom anxiety. The Modern Language Journal, 70(2), 125-132.
  • Indrarathne, B., & Kormos, J. (2017). The role of working memory in processing L2 input: Insights from eye-tracking. Bilingualism: Language And Cognition, 21(2), 355-374. doi:10.1017/s1366728917000098
  • Iwasaki, J., & Oliver, R. (2018). Describing the acquisition of passive voice by a child learner of Japanese as a second language from a processability theory perspective. International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Literature, 7(5), 247-259.
  • Jansen, L. (2008). Acquisition of German word order in tutored learners: a cross-sectional study in a wider theoretical context. Language Learning: A Journal of Research in Language Studies, 58(1), 185–231. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9922.2007.00438.x
  • Kempen, G., & Hoenkamp, E. (1987). An incremental procedural grammar for sentence formulation. Cognitive Science, 11, 201–258.

  • Khansir, A. A., & Pakdel, F. (2019). Contrastive analysis hypothesis and second language learning. Journal of ELT Research, 4(1), 35 - 43. doi:10.22236/JER_Vol4Issue1pp35-43
  • Krashen, S. (1985). The input hypothesis: Issues and complications. London, England: Longman.
  • Larsen-Freeman, D. (1997). Chaos/complexity science and second language acquisition. Applied Linguistics, 18, 141–165.
  • Larsen-Freeman, D. (2015). Complexity theory. In B. VanPatten, & J. Williams (Eds.), Theories in second language acquisition: An introduction (pp. 227-244). New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Larsen-Freeman, D. (2018). Looking ahead: Future directions in, and future research into, second language acquisition. Second Language Annals, 51, 55-72.
  • Levelt, W. J. M. (1989). Speaking: From intention to articulation. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Pienemann, M. (1998). Language processing and second language development: Processability theory. Amsterdam, Netherlands: John Benjamins.
  • Pienemann, M., & Lenzing, A. (2015). Processability Theory. In B. VanPatten & J. Williams (Eds.), Theories in second language acquisition: An introduction (pp.159-179) New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Pienemann, M. (2011). The psycholinguistic basis of PT. In M. Pienemann & J. Keßler (Eds.), Studying processability theory: An introductory textbook (pp. 27-49). Amsterdam, The Netherlands: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
  • Roberts, L., González Alonso, J., Pliatsikas, C., & Rothman, J. (2016). Evidence from neurolinguistic methodologies: Can it actually inform linguistic/language acquisition theories and translate to evidence-based applications? Second Language Research, 34(1), 125-143. doi:10.1177/0267658316644010
  • Sakai, H. (2008). An analysis of Japanese university students’ oral performance in English using processability theory. System: An International Journal of Educational Technology and Applied Linguistics, 36(4), 534–549. doi: 10.1016/j.system.2008.03.002
  • Spinner, P., & Jung, S. (2018). Production and comprehension in processability theory: A self-paced reading study. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 40, 295-318.
  • Swain, M. (1985). Communicative competence: Some roles of comprehensible input and comprehensible output in its development. In S. Gass & C. Madden (Eds.), Input in second language acquisition (pp. 235–253). Rowley, MA: Newbury.
  • Swain, M. (1995). Three functions of output in second language learning. In G. Cook & B. Seidlhofer (Eds.), Principle and practice in applied linguistics (pp. 125–144). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
  • Swain, M. (2005). The Output Hypothesis: Theory and research. In E. Hinkel (Ed.), Handbook on research in second language learning and teaching (pp. 471–483). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
  • Swain, M., & Lapkin, S. (2002). Talking it through: Two French immersion learners’ response to reformulation. International Journal of Educational Research, 37, 285–304.
  • Thelen, E., & Smith, L. B. (1994). A dynamic systems approach to the development of cognition and action. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Xu, F. (2016). Short-term working memory and chunking in SLA. Theory and Practice in Language Studies, 6(1), 119 - 126. doi: 10.17507/tpls.0601.16
  • Yamaguchi, Y. & Kawaguchi, S. (2016). Development of Relative Clause constructions in English L2. International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Literature, 5(1), 85-93.
  • Zhang, Y. (2004). Processing constraints, categorial analysis, and the second language acquisition of the Chinese adjective suffix -de (ADJ). Language Learning, 54(3), 437–468. doi: 10.1111/j.0023-8333.2004.00261.x
Birincil Dil en
Konular Dil ve Dil Bilim
Bölüm Research Article
Yazarlar

Orcid: 0000-0002-2642-3015
Yazar: Hilal PEKER (Sorumlu Yazar)
Kurum: IHSAN DOGRAMACI BILKENT UNIVERSITY
Ülke: Turkey


Orcid: 0000-0002-2900-0341
Yazar: Esma TOPRAK-CELEN
Kurum: MIDDLE EAST TECHNICAL UNIVERSITY
Ülke: Turkey


Tarihler

Başvuru Tarihi : 1 Haziran 2020
Kabul Tarihi : 22 Haziran 2020
Yayımlanma Tarihi : 6 Ağustos 2020

APA Peker, H , Toprak-celen, E . (2020). A Critical Review on The Components of Processability Theory: Identifying the Limitations . ELT Research Journal , 9 (1) , 71-89 . Retrieved from https://dergipark.org.tr/tr/pub/eltrj/issue/56301/746686