Theses Doctoral

The Possibility of Mutual Benefit from Exchange between the Philosophy of Language and Second Language Acquisition Research and Pedagogy

Ingram, Harold B.

This dissertation has three parts. The first part is an ESL textbook that is based on a grammar which I call term and predicate grammar. This name reflects the view that all simple and complex sentences of English consist of one predicate and one or more terms, or are simple transforms of such sentences. There are four predicate types and seven term types, all of which can be specified precisely. The term and predicate grammar itself is based on the syntactic component of a semiotic system I developed, which standardly includes as well a semantic component and a pragmatic component.

The second part of the dissertation establishes a connection between the philosophy of language and second language acquisition research and pedagogy by presenting two cases in which an analysis of a feature of English in the one discipline is juxtaposed with an analysis of the same feature in the other discipline. On the basis of these two cases, it is proposed that a merger of interests and lines of work between the two disciplines would be mutually beneficial, and that an ESL text book that is based in the philosophy of language should foster such a merger. The third and final part of the dissertation has a general aspect and a specific aspect.

On its general aspect, it is a philosophical examination of the relationship between the implicit knowledge of language vs. explicit knowledge of language distinction in second language acquisition research and pedagogy and the knowing-how vs. knowing-that distinction in the philosophy of language. The two distinctions are found to align and it is claimed on this basis that the second language acquisition distinction has an antecedent in the earlier philosophical distinction.

On its specific aspect, the third part of the dissertation is an analysis of what is called the interface issue in second language acquisition research. This issue addresses the question of how implicit knowledge and explicit knowledge contribute to the acquisition of a second language. Three positions have been taken on the issue, viz. the strong position, the no position and the weak position. On the strong position the explicit knowledge of language developed by instruction and practice plays a major role in acquisition, on the no position such knowledge plays no role in acquisition while on the weak position such knowledge plays a facilitating role in acquisition. But there is a consensus in the second language acquisition research community that the strong position should be rejected and yet it is this position that accords with the views of traditional language pedagogists, and with thoughtful common sense generally. This poses a dilemma that I claim can be resolved by making a philosophical interpretation of ideas and information that can be found in recent second language acquisition theory and research.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Varzi, Achille C.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 20, 2013