INTRODUCTIONSecond language (L2) learning involves a gradual advancement from the learner’s first language (L1) towards the target language (TL). During this process of learning, the learner naturally develops an intermediate language between his L1 and L2. It is neither L1 nor L2, rather a separate language having its own grammar or linguistic system. This learner system is widely referred to as Interlanguage (IL). The emergence of Interlanguage evinced the shift in psychological perspectives of second language learning from a behaviourist approach to a mentalist one. In fact, the concept of Interlanguage, in many ways, borrowed some of its major assumptions directly from the mentalist theories. This psycholinguistic concept was first introduced by the well-known SLA theorist Larry Selinker (1969, 1972). Since then, Interlanguage has become a major subject of scrutiny in the field of second language learning theories. Although Selinker was the chief begetter of the theory, subsequently, a few other theorists came forward to explain the same notion under different terms, such as Approximative System (Nemser 1971), Transitional Competence (Corder 1967), and Idiosyncratic Dialect (Corder 1973).
DEFINITIONIn a general sense, Interlanguage is defined as the interim grammars constructed by the learner of a second language on his way to the target language.
In a narrower sense, Interlanguage refers to the intermediate status of the second language learner’s system between his mother tongue and the target language.
In a broader sense, Interlanguage is defined as the second language learner’s present knowledge of the language he is learning.
THEORETICAL ASSUMPTIONSThe core assumptions underlying Interlanguage are as follows:
DISCUSSIONHere follows a detailed discussion on Interlanguage theory based on the assumptions mentioned hereinabove:
INTERLANGUAGE CONTINUUMDuring L2 acquisition, the learner formulates the hypotheses about the system/rules of TL. The rules are viewed as mental grammars that construct the Interlanguage system. These grammars are permeable. They are exposed to influences both from outside the learner, and form the learner’s internal processing. This suggests that the learner’s performance is variable. These grammars are transitional. The learner changes his grammar from one time to another by adding rules, deleting rules, and restructuring the whole system. Thus, in every stage of learning there is an Interlanguage. Through the gradual process of checking and rechecking hypotheses, the learner keeps changing his Interlanguage until the target language system is fully acquired/ shaped. This gradual progression naturally implies to an Interlanguage Continuum.
The above figure suggests that Interlanguage is a dynamic phenomenon which can be illustrated with a continuum, of which one end is L1 and the other end is L2. The learner constantly moves along the Interlanguage continuum of which the destination is the complete mastery of the TL.
LANGUAGE DEVICESInterlanguage can proceed by adopting two types of mechanisms:
Originally, both the theories were associated with L1 acquisition. Their principles were adopted by the second language researchers in order to provide explanations for the existence of developmental sequences in Interlanguage and to view L2 acquisition as a natural process.
Within the Latent Psychological Structure there exist several important notions:
2. Psycholinguistic Processes
The above processes can be visualized through a diagram in the following way:
LEARNING/TEACHING METHODFrom the above discussion it is apparent that the interpretation of Interlanguage is partially undertaken by investigating and interpreting the errors produced by the L2 learner. Hence, Error Analysis (EA) has become a prevailing learning method in Interlanguage development. The notion of EA was proposed by Pit Corder (1967).
STRENGTHSThe theory of Interlanguage is significant for a number of reasons:
WEAKNESSESDespite many positive sides, some of the assumptions of Interlanguage have been criticized for their weaknesses:
CONCLUSIONInterlanguage is, by far the strongest contender amongst the second language learning theories. The theory of Interlanguage was the first major attempt to explain the process of second language learning in terms of mentalist perspectives. After its introduction by Selinker, it has been gradually developed by the hands of numerous researchers. At this time, it has become much refined and also contributed a lot in developing many other theories. Although vague in many points, it has been able to provide significant suggestions for the theories of second language learning.
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