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LAEL Departmental Lecture Series: Martin Bygate

Date: 25 February 2009 Time: 4.30-6.00 pm

Speaker: Martin Bygate, LAEL

Venue: Merriman LT

Title: Language, mind and society: trying to resolve some tensions in the triangle in educational applied linguistics.

This series of public lectures is promoted by the Department of Linguistics and English Language at the University of Lancaster, and aims to present current language and linguistics research that links language to both mind and to society, offering a range of different perspectives.


There is a broad consensus amongst researchers that the purpose of second language teaching (SLT) is to foster functional communicative language ability, and that this entails teaching (and also testing) language in use. Although most definitions of 'language in use' involve both cognitive and social dimensions, over the past 30 years or so SLT has been struggling to resolve the tensions between the two perspectives. Initially (roughly from 1980-1995) cognitive approaches predominated, seeing language learning as a fundamentally internal and individual process. From about 1994-5 onwards, there have been increasing numbers of researchers seeking to bring social factors into the equation, sometimes to the point of defining cognitive processes as social. Yet the concept of 'language use' implies that language is simultaneously both a social and a cognitive phenomenon. So too are teaching and learning. Hence logically SLT must embrace both dimensions. Yet there remains a divide - sometimes a bitter one- between the two. In this talk I will outline the controversy, both broadly in relation to applied linguistics on general, and more narrowly in relation to SLT. I will then relate it specifically to the classroom use of pedagogical tasks - which is one particular device for teaching language through use - illustrating how the two dimensions are relevant for the research area, and suggest some ways in which both social and the cognitive need to be taken into account. In so doing, I will seek to show that on their own neither approach can adequately respond to the problems that they aim to address.


Who can attend: Anyone


Further information

Organising departments and research centres: Linguistics and English Language


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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Lancaster University
Lancaster LA1 4YD
United Kingdom

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