VP Chapter 3: The Developing System
The common purpose of learning language is communication. Communication consists of comprehension, speech production, learning, and social interaction. There are networks of forms and lexical items in the brain that map out the relationships between words. For example, semantic relationships have to do with the meaning of words (i.e. interesting and boring). Lexical relationships are formed between words with the same root (i.e. interesting and interested).
Some of the rules that govern sentence structure are very difficult to articulate. These form the abstract syntactic system. This system informs the learner of which sentence constructions are possible and which are not. Other important aspects of language development are pragmatic and sociolinguistic competence. A learner with pragmatic competence can infer meaning or a speaker’s intent.
The linguistic system is a developing system. Since learning a new language is a dynamic process the learner’s understanding of the language undergoes two main types of changes: accommodation and restructuring. Accommodation refers to incorporating new lexical terms and grammatical structures. Restructuring is forming different sentence structures and types of possible sentences. Finally, the role of explicit knowledge is to facilitate the development of an implicit linguistic system. Explicit knowledge does not “turn into” an unconscious system.
I am still somewhat confused by the abstract syntactic sytem. Most of what I have gotten out of the text so far is that the acquisition of language is primarily rooted in an unconscious system with rules that we can’t articulate. As teachers we need to expose learners to input in the students’ second language that will help them begin to form a more sophisticated implicit linguistic system. Is there any value in learning the complex grammatical rules that govern language usage? Or is it mere exposure to these rules in practice (input) that teaches language learners how to use them successfully?