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PLM2007 Session: Metalinguistic knowledge and second language acquisition

The aim of the proposed session is to present the latest research findings on the role of metalinguistic knowledge in second language acquisition, and to discuss the applicability of those findings to various instructional paradigms that have been put forward.

The distinction between different types of knowledge (i.e. explicit/implicit and declarative/procedural) does not raise major controversies in SLA research and there have been several successful attempts to operationalise this distinction and to investigate the mutual relationship (cf. e.g. Anderson 1980, Białystok 1991, McLaughlin 1990, Sharwood Smith 1993). However, there is an ongoing debate if this distinction is valid also on the level of process, i.e. if learners can internalise L2 knowledge both explicitly and implicitly or whether one type of knowledge can be converted into the other. Therefore, we would like to encourage a further discussion pertaining to the nature and complexity of linguistic knowledge.

The question of the role of explicit instruction in L2 acquisition has been the subject of a lively debate in recent years. The general tendency seems to have been to move away from a purely communicative framework, like that of Krashen (e.g. 1982), and to recognize some role for explicit instruction, at least in adult L2 acquisition.

There have been various proposals as to how explicit instruction should be implemented. In a popular approach developed by Long (1991), which is referred to as focus on form, pedagogic interventions are justified whenever learners experience communication breakdowns during the performance of some task. In another task-based paradigm, that of Ellis (2003), a leading communicative module is supposed to be supplemented by an independent grammar module, which can be implemented in a fairly traditional manner (often referred to as focus on forms). Finally, there are SLA specialists (e.g. Johnson 1996, DeKeyser 1998, Marton 2003) who postulate using concepts from Anderson’s skill acquisition theory (e.g. Anderson 1982, 2000) in adult L2 instruction. In general, this involves developing by learners conscious declarative L2 knowledge which is proceduralized as a result of practice.

The investigation of the relationship between different types of knowledge is closely related to the issue of consciousness and its role in the acquisition of a second language, which still remains fairly controversial. The recent upsurge of interest in metalinguistic knowledge and awareness has resulted in several research attempts examining the nature of metalinguistic awareness (MLA) and the relationship between MLA and language proficiency (e.g. Alderson - Clapham - Steel 1997, Renou 2001). They were mostly limited, however, to the grammatical proficiency and the knowledge of metalinguistic terminology.

The goal of the proposed session is to investigate different kinds of consciousness raising in language pedagogy by inviting contributions concerning various aspects of learner's L2 metacompetence (e.g. phonological, grammatical) and, at the same time, representing different research perspectives including theoretical, pedagogical as well as psycholinguistic or neuropsychological.

Please send your abstracts to the Conference Organisers at, according to the submission guidelines.

Session conveners:
Dr Paweł Scheffler (email: spawel at
Dr Magdalena Wrembel (email: magdala at