Chapter 1. Enduring questions from the Interlanguage Hypothesis

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This chapter claims that the Interlanguage Hypothesis is best understood, not as a theory of second language acquisition (SLA), but as a set of questions that motivate divergent answers and research programs. Selinker’s (1972) basic question is whether there is a linguistic system that underlies the output of second language learners. Related questions that continue to stimulate research focus on: the relationship between first and second language acquisition, whether and how the linguistic systems formed in SLA fossilize, and whether and how learners’ interlanguage use varies in different social situations. The chapter also considers related questions not addressed in Selinker (1972): the impact of alphabetic print literacy on interlanguage development, and whether interlanguages are features of speech communities.


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