The Interaction Hypothesis (Ih)

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The Interaction Hypothesis (IH) is attributed to Michael Long (1981) is based primarily on the work of Stephen Krashen and Evelyn Hatch. Long emphasized the importance of comprehensible input that was central to Krashen’s Input Hypothesis but claimed that this input was most likely to be acquired during interactions which involved discourse modifications. This claim supported that of Hatch (1978) who showed a direct link between the way learners acquired a second language (l2) and the interactions they are involved in using the L2. The theory also expands on theories concerning the modifications native speakers (NS) make to their language when interacting with non-native speakers (NNS). Henzl (1973) showed that NSs slow their speech when addressing NNSs. The IH has benefitted from analysis and has been developed over the course of the last thirty years into a much more complete theory. Research surrounding the different aspects of the hypothesis has forwarded theoretical understanding of how language is acquired and has been successfully applied to practical second language pedagogy. This essay shall present the empirical evidence and subsequent modifications of the IH over the course of its development with a view of evaluating the current validity of the theory. Interactionist approaches to SLA moved united aspects of the behaviourist and mentalist traditions. Whilst mentalist approaches were concerned with learners’ innate language learning abilities and behaviourist considered cognative processing to be at the forefront of second language acquisition (SLA), the interactionist theory is concerned with the impact of interaction and the linguistic environment on SLA. The Interaction Hypothesis is largely associated with Michael Long (1981) who made two major claims about the relationship between interaction and L2 acquisition. The first proposal central to Long’s hypothesis is that comprehensible input is essential for second language acquisition. In this claim, Long drew heavily from the work of Stephen Krashen. Long agreed with Krashens hypothesis; that comprehensible input is required for L2 acquisition to take place however went on to claim that; “modifications to the interactional structure of conversation were “the most important and widely used way of making input comprehensible” (pp. 342)” (Ellis 91, pp. 6) Long stated that it is through interactions which involve negotiation of meaning allows input to become comprehensible. The term negotiation of meaning refers to modifications within the interaction used to tackle any communication problems which may arise. The idea that L2 learners can benefit from interacting more capable speakers agrees with Vygotskian approaches to second language acquisition (SLA) which claims “Social Interaction is a mechanism for individual development, since in the presence of a more capable participant, the novice is drawn into, and operates within, the space of the expert’s strategic processes for problem solving.” Hatch (1978) empirically proved a link between the elements used in L2 learners interactions and the rate of their interlanguage development, by using a discourse analysis approach in interpreting interactions involving both child and adult L2 learners. Long also presents an account of the modifications NSs made to their output when dealing with NNSs. In a study carried out in 1980, Long reported on the interactional features of native English speakers addressing sixteen Japanese learners of English. The study showed that whilst NSs rarely modified the input they provided for the NNSs, interactional adjustments appeared often. The analysis of “Foreigner Talk,” the language NSs use whilst addressing NNSs. Theorist have also categorised other forms of modified discourse such as teacher talk and interlanguage talk. In order to fully evaluate the IH it is important to investigate the impact of these modifications. It is also important to be aware that...
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