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The Role of Language Input in Second Language Acquisition

Language Input And Second Language Acquision

In this section, the role of language input in SLA is discussed. This is done based on: firstly, the importance which is given to the role of input in various theories of language learning, and secondly, some frameworks for SLA such as those introduced by Gass and Selinker (1994) and Ellis with the direct focus on language input for SLA. Additionally, Krashen‘s input hypothesis is followed by critiques of his hypothesis. 

There are many internal as well as external factors which influence SLA. Among them, the language input that learners receive in SLA is one of the external factors which plays a fundamental role. Corder is one of the pioneers among SLA researchers who underscored the importance of language input for SLA by drawing a distinction between input and intake. According to Corder, language input refers to what is available to be utilized by language learners for SLA which should be differentiated from intake which is that part of the input which is comprehended by the language learners.

The review of the literature on language input and SLA reveals that much work in this area of research has been concerned with the importance, the role, and the processing of linguistic input (Doughty & Long, Gass & Selinker. From a large pool of research, it can be deduced that SLA simply cannot take place in a vacuum without considering having exposure to some sort of language input (Gass, 1997). However, while the importance and the role of language input have been advocated by various theories of language learning, there has been a difference between those theories which attribute a small or no role to language input and those attributing it a more important role. According to Ellis (1994; 2008), SLA theories attach different importance to the role of input in the language acquisition process but they all acknowledge the need for language input. In many SLA theories, language input is considered as being a highly essential factor while in other theories it has been given the secondary role. In fact, what has been changed in relation to the role of input in language learning from the viewpoint of various language learning theories is the conceptualization of how language input is processed by language learners (Doughty & Long).

In this relation, Ellis  considered the role of language input in SLA based on behaviorist, mentalist, and interactionist theories of language learning. Gass also considered the role of language input in the inputinteraction model, the input hypothesis, the universal grammar model, and the information processing model which treat the role of language input in different ways. According to Gass (1997), in the input-interaction model, the language input that language learners receive is strengthened by the manipulation of the input through interaction which forms a basis for SLA. Within Krashen‘s comprehensible input hypothesis , SLA takes place merely by means of comprehensible input which the language learners receive. That is, only the language input that is a little beyond the learners‘ language competence is useful for SLA. The third model as explained by Gass is the universal grammar which asserts that language input is important but there must be something in addition to language input. This is the innate capacity which helps language learners acquire the second language. The last model is the information processing model in which the learner must first notice that there is something to learn.

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