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Complex dynamic systems and second language acquisition


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Paper presentation at the IRAAL's Annual Conference 2016: "Paradigm shifting in applied linguistics: new theories and new methods". Irish Association for Applied Linguistics. Trinity College Dublin

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Complex dynamic systems and second language acquisition

  1. 1. COMPLEX DYNAMIC SYSTEMS AND SECOND LANGUAGE ACQUISITION Dr Iker Erdocia Lecturer in Spanish School of Applied Language and Intercultural Studies Dublin City University Dublin, 19 November 2016
  2. 2. Summary • Some quotes • Me and the complex dynamic systems • A bit of popularization • Epistemological issues (1), (2) • Research streams • The basics • Some concepts and examples • Conclusions Iker Erdocia. Dublin City University
  3. 3. Some quotes “Everything changes and nothing remains still” Heraclitus “I think the next [21st] century will be the century of complexity. We have already discovered the basic laws that govern matter and understand all the normal situations.We don’t know how the laws fit together, and what happens under extreme conditions. But I expect we will find a complete unified theory sometime this century.There is no limit to the complexity that we can build using those basic laws” Stephen W. Hawking “Once we began to view development from a dynamic and selectionist approach, we found the ideas so powerful that we could never go back to other ways of thinking.” (Thelen and Smith, 1994: 341). Iker Erdocia. Dublin City University
  4. 4. Me and the complex dynamic systems • PhD: Spanish language teaching education (Erdocia, 2016) • “Novel types of questions present a challenge, especially for new researchers in the field, such as those doing studies as part of a Master’s or PhD programme (…) most SLA students in universities at present would find few opportunities for training that can help them to get close to this threshold” (MacIntyre et al, 2015: 420) • Away from the mainstream in research • 2013-2016: still attracted but more eskeptical Iker Erdocia. Dublin City University
  5. 5. A bit of popularization • Popular (and more serious) literature, simplifying assumptions and the risk of sensationalism • “On trouve parfois des soi-disant « application » du chaos qui son franchement fantaisistes, par exemple à la gestión des entreprises ou même à la littérature” (Sokal & Bricmont, 1997: 239) Iker Erdocia. Dublin City University
  6. 6. Epistemological issues (1) • Whereas this is true: Some phenomena are not subject to a law of causation: atomic disintegration and gene mutations… …we have to keep in mind that not every apparent irregularity is chaotic. • Probability vs determinism: “Même si les lois physiques au niveau atomique sont expremées actuellement dans un langage probabiliste, cela n’empêcha pas que des théories déterministes puissent être valides (avec une très bonne approximation) à d’autres niveaux, par exemple en mécanique des fluides ou même éventuellement (et plus approximativement encore) pour certains phénomènes sociaux ou économiques” (Sokal & Bricmont, 1997: 239) • “Hasta el momento no se ha probado que haya procesos sociales caóticos.Todo lo que hay son sospechas” (Bunge, 2006: 35) • Partial conclusion: being complex ≠ chaos, complex dynamic system Iker Erdocia. Dublin City University
  7. 7. Epistemological issues (2) “It has now been 13 years since Diane Larsen-Freeman published her seminal article on complex systems and second language acquisition (Larsen-Freeman 1997).As she has noticed herself in various publications, it took the applied linguistic world a few years to realize that a paradigm shift was about to take place” (Verspoor, Bot & Lowie, 2011: 1) • Kuhn’s paradigm shift: • Masterman’s criticism (Musgrave, 1970): 21 different uses of the concept “paradigm”. Critics accepted by Kuhn. From “paradigm” to “incommensurability” • Paradigm shift in SLA? No • The complex paradigm? No (neither in social science nor in linguistics) • Complexity: the undone revolution (neither in social science nor in linguistics) • Dynamic turn in usage-based SLA? But just perhaps • Linguistics war (Part 2): Holism vs reductionism; social vs cognitivism; functionalism vs generativism • Linguistics research: methodology depending on conceptualization of language and what we aim to investigate in language acquisition; longitudinal vs experimental; both are still valid! • From second language acquisition to second language development. SLD: description and explanation of the use of a language. Iker Erdocia. Dublin City University
  8. 8. Research streams • “Soft approach”: qualitative and interpretative (e.g. ecological approach). Metaphoric use of complexity theories • “Medium approach”: metatheory; metaphoric use; simulation and mathematical or computational modeling; (Larsen-Freeman & Cameron, 2008; 'Five Graces group‘: Beckner et al., 2009) • “Hard approach”:Apply dynamic systems methods and techniques (i.e. data on variation, dense data gathering and analysis, modeling to longitudinal language data;Verspoor, Bot & Lowie, 2011; L1 and developmental psychology: vanGeert and van Dijk) • “Radical approach”: Language (use) is a complex system: (Kretzschmar, 2015) • Importance of frequency and distributional patterns that emerge from complex systems (i.e. Zipf’s law, non-linear A-curve) • Against traditional (formal) linguistics • Breakup from the assumption of structure: “There is no 'grammmar‘ but only 'grammaticization‘.” (Emergent grammar: Hooper, 1987) Iker Erdocia. Dublin City University
  9. 9. The basics: some lessons and some definitions 10 lessons (Larsen-Freeman, 2015): • Change: nothing is fixed, everything is dynamic • Space: system change seen as a movement in a trajectory across a 'state space‘ • Complexity: patterns emerge through the self-organizing interaction of its components • Relationship: no simple correlation; interdependent relationship among the factors • Nonlinearity: movement through space/time and periods of chaos (prediction no available) • Dependence on initial conditions: butterfly effect • … Iker Erdocia. Dublin City University
  10. 10. Some concepts • Attractor state: a pattern towards which a system approaches over time • Attractor basin • Space state • Self-organization • System dynamics Iker Erdocia. Dublin City University Feedback System parameters Periodic/strange attractor states Phase shift Emergence Co-adaptation Is it just about metaphors? “ Les sciences exactes ne sont pas un réservoir de métaphores prêtes à être utilisées en sience humaines (…) Les sciences humaines on leurs propes méthodes et n’ont nul besoin de suivre chaque “changement de paradigme” (réel ou imaginaire) en physique ou en biologie ” (Sokal & Bricmont, 1997: 276-277)
  11. 11. Iker Erdocia. Dublin City University Some examples In Kretzschmar, 2015: 75 Lowie et al., 2011: 117 Eskildsen., 2011: 117 1 2 3
  12. 12. Conclusions • Being complex does not mean a complex dynamic system • Not a paradigm shift; not a theory • New and refreshing insight within usage-based approach but not in SLA as a discipline • Social-cognitive approach: • Relation between language user and use: usage-based approach; • Focus on the learner: intraindividual and interindividual variation. • Instability and change in language use is a fact.What is next? • Methodological challenges • It should be more than using metaphors • Fashion or long-lasting approach? Iker Erdocia. Dublin City University
  13. 13. A last quote “In the end, DST’s staying power in the second language acquisition (SLA) field will be determined by how well it allows us, not just to say the same things over again in a different way, but to actually discover new things that we could not have said or discovered without it” (Hiver, 2015: 231-2) Iker Erdocia. Dublin City University
  14. 14. • Beckner, C., Blythe, R., Bybee, J., Christiansen, M. H., Croft, W., Ellis, N. C., ... & Schoenemann,T. (2009). Language is a complex adaptive system: Position paper. Language learning, 59(s1), 1-26. • Ellis, N. C., & Larsen‐Freeman, D. (2009). Constructing a second language: Analyses and computational simulations of the emergence of linguistic constructions from usage. Language Learning, 59(s1), 90-125. • Erdocia, I. (2016). De la formación de profesores ELE a la competencia profesional docente. Doctoral thesis. Universidad de Alcalá, Spain. • Eskildsen, S.W. (2012). L2 negation constructions at work. Language Learning, 62(2), 335-372. • Kretzschmar,W. A., & Kretzschmar Jr,W. A. (2015). Language and complex systems. Cambridge University Press. • Hiver, P. (2015). Once Burned,Twice Shy:The Dynamic Development of System Immunity inTeachers. Motivational dynamics in language learning, 214-237. • Hopper, P. (1987). Emergent grammar. In Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society (Vol. 13, pp. 139-157). • Larsen-Freeman, D. (2015).Ten ‘lessons’ from complex dynamic systems theory: What is on offer. Motivational dynamics in language learning, 11-19. • Larsen-Freeman, D., & Cameron, L. (2008). Complex systems and applied linguistics. Oxford University Press. • Lowie,W., Caspi,T.,Van Geert, P., & Steenbeek, H. (2011). Modeling development and change. A dynamic approach to second language development: Methods and techniques. Amsterdam, Philadelphia: Benjamins, 22-122. • MacIntyre, P. D., Dörnyei, Z., & Henry, A. (2015). Conclusion: Hot enough to be cool–the promise of dynamic systems research. Motivational dynamics in language learning, 419-429. • Musgrave, A. (Ed.). (1970). Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge: Volume 4: Proceedings of the International Colloquium in the Philosophy of Science, London, 1965 (Vol. 4). Cambridge University Press. • Sokal, A., & Bricmont, J. (1997). Impostures intellectuelles. Odile Jacob. • Thelen, E., & Smith, L. B. (1994). A dynamic systems approach to the development of perception and action. • Verspoor, M., De Bot, K., & Lowie,W. (Eds.). (2011). A dynamic approach to second language development: Methods and techniques (Vol. 29). John Benjamins Publishing. Iker Erdocia. Dublin City University
  15. 15. Thank you! @ierdocia Iker Erdocia. Dublin City University