1. famous suggestion that children develop speech through a

1. Introduction

Conventionally,
the study of SLA has centered on learners’ use of speech for social or public
purposes (as in writing for an audience or taking part in conversation).
Recently, however, a growing number of scholars have begun to identify the
prominence of speech that L2 learners address to themselves, rather than to
others. Speech that is self-directed and intended for regulating oneself is
known as private speech.

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Research
into private speech has been significantly influenced by Vygotsky’s (1986)
theories of cognitive advancement. Mainly attractive has been his famous
suggestion that children develop speech through a process of internalization
that contains a progression from social speech to inner speech, with an
intermediate stage he called egocentric speech. At this phase, speech ceases to
be exclusively social and takes on a psychological dimension. Speech begins to
serve the intellect and help the child in problem-solving, imaginary play,
controlling behavior, and other cognitive procedures. A preschool child,
working alone and trying to solve an animal home matching task, for example,
mumbles these words to guide his actions all the way through the task: “put a
bear inside the cage . . . no, no, put a kitty inside a cage and . . . put a
bear . . . in the nest” (Patrick & Abravanel, 2000, p. 57). Egocentric speech
is vocalized and can be heard by others (or captured by a tape recorder), but
it is self-directed. Egocentric speech does not stay external, nonetheless. At
some point, Vygotsky postulated, it goes inward as silent inner speech. Because
of its prominence in mental and linguistic improvement, the stage of egocentric
speech—more frequently referred to as private speech in existing literature—has
created great interest as a central window into language learning and use, both
from a first language (L1) and an L2 standpoint.

In
L2 acquisition, private speech has been examined mainly from two perspectives:
(1) as an indication of language learning in process, and (2) as a
self-regulatory means of getting control over mental tasks. Both perspectives
have revealed extensive use of private speech among L2 learners of all ages,
language backgrounds, and proficiency levels. Some studies have been
purposefully set up to elicit private speech (McCafferty, 1992); other studies
have given proof of incidental private speech among L2 learners (see, for
example, Saville-Troike (2006)). A large number of studies have celebrated
vocalized (oral) private speech as it happens in solitary or multiparty
discourse; some research has looked into private speech as it is revealed in
writing and gesture. Roebuck (2000), for instance, found private speech
features—such as lexical word searches—in the written protocols of college
learners of Spanish, whereas Negueruela (2004) noticed semantic features
associated with L1 thinking in some of the gestures of advanced ESL learners.
Private speech among L2 learners has been described in the literature as taking
place both spontaneously in natural classroom contexts (e.g., Ohta, 2001) and
in experimental settings deliberately shaped for research purposes (e.g.,
Centeno-Cortés & Jiménez, 2004).

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