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Complex, dynamic systems: A new transdisciplinary theme for applied linguistics?

  • Diane Larsen-Freeman (a1)

In this plenary address, I suggest that Complexity Theory has the potential to contribute a transdisciplinary theme to applied linguistics. Transdisciplinary themes supersede disciplines and spur new kinds of creative activity (Halliday 2001 [1990]). Investigating complex systems requires researchers to pay attention to system dynamics. Since applied linguists study language systems that change (for example, as they develop in learners, this is a useful perspective to bring to bear on many of our concerns. To introduce Complexity Theory, I list twelve principles undergirding this perspective and elaborate on three of them: those to do with dynamism, complexity, and the role of context. I then discuss several studies of L2 development that have been informed by the perspective. I conclude by suggesting that the ultimate promise of Complexity Theory is the help it provides in humanizing science.

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K. de Bot , W. Lowie & M. Verspoor (2005). Second language acquisition: An advanced resource book. London: Routledge.

F. Hult (2010). Theme-based research in the transdisciplinary field of educational linguistics. In F. Hult (ed.), Directions and prospects for educational linguistics. Dordrecht: Springer, 2850.

S. Mitchell (2003). Biological complexity and integrative pluralism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

E. Morin (2007). Restricted complexity, general complexity. In C. Gershenson , D. Aerts & B. Edmonds (eds.), Worldviews, science and us: Philosophy and complexity. Singapore: World Scientific, 529.

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Language Teaching
  • ISSN: 0261-4448
  • EISSN: 1475-3049
  • URL: /core/journals/language-teaching
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