A Critical Review of the Interactionist Approach to Second Language Acquisition

Saeid Najafi Sarem, Yusef Shirzadi


The realm of language acquisition, either first or second language, has been under the influence of three major theories, namely Behaviorism, Innativism, and Interactionism.  The key figures in these schools of thought are Skinner, Chomsky, and Vygotsky respectively. Each theory has contributed to the field by highlighting a specific aspect of the language acquisition process. Behaviorist theory has given the main role to the environment, introducing the concepts of imitation and habit-formation. On the other hand, the innativist theory has focused on the role of mind and cognitive processes in language learning. Taking advantage of both the behaviorist and innativist theories, in the 19th century, the interactinist approach emerged which concentrated on the role of social interaction in language learning. Based on this approach, learners should be exposed to comprehensible, negotiated, or modified input in their attempts to acquire a language. In the same line, the present article tries to provide a critical literature on the interactionist approach in second language learning. Therefore, this review first sheds light on the major theoretical points introduced by this theory; then it tries to discuss some of the main implications and applications of the social interactionist approach in the domain of second language learning.


constructivism; interactionist approach; interaction hypothesis

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