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Usage-Based Approaches to Language and Their Applications to Second Language Learning

  • Andrea Tyler
Abstract

Over the past 20 years, many in the field of second language learning and pedagogy have become familiar with models of language that emphasize its communicative nature. These models are often referred to as usage-based because they emphasize the notion that actual language use is a primary shaper of linguistic form. Supporters of these models also argue that making meaning, that is, the use to which language is put, is central to how language is configured. Usage-based models share several other underlying assumptions as well. While these usage models have a number of ideas in common, several distinct approaches have emerged. They often use similar terms, such as cognition and metaphor, but the precise interpretations can vary from model to model. The overall result is that without extensive reading, it is not always clear just how these models differ and what unique insights each offer. This article attempts to address this situation by examining three major usage-based models—systemic functional linguistics, discourse functionalism, and cognitive linguistics. First, the common, underlying tenets shared by the three models are discussed. Second, an overview of the unique tenets and concerns of each approach is presented in order to distinguish key differences among them. Within the discussion of each approach, I also discuss various attempts to apply the model to issues in second language learning.

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