Key terms in second language acquisition

Key terms in second language acquisition. By Bill Van Patten and Alessandro G. Benati.  New York: Continuum, 2010. Pp. viii, 184. ISBN 9780826499158. $24.95.

Reviewed by Richard W. Hallett, Northeastern Illinois University

In the introduction (1–8), the authors define second language acquisition (SLA) as ‘a research field that focuses on learners and learning rather than teachers and teaching’ (1). They then guide the reader through the historical development of SLA studies beginning with the 1970s and moving through the 2000s ‘and beyond’ (5). Following this condensed history, there is a short section on SLA and second language (L2) teaching. The introduction concludes with a short description of the book’s contents.

Following the introduction is a section titled ‘Key issues in second language acquisition’ (9–57). The nine questions the authors briefly answer include ‘What is the initial state?’ (11–15), ‘Can L2 learners become native-like?’ (16–21), ‘Is there a critical period?’ (22–26), ‘What does development look like?’ (27–31), ‘What are the roles of explicit and implicit learning in SLA?’ (32–35), ‘What are the roles of input and output in SLA?’ (36–41), ‘What are individual differences and how do they affect acquisition?’ (42–46), ‘Does instruction make a difference?’ (47–52), and ‘What constraints are there on acquisition?’ (53–57).

The bulk of the text is found in the subsequent section, ‘Key terms in SLA’ (58–167). One hundred twenty-one entries for SLA terminology are provided in alphabetical order from accessibility hierarchy/noun phrase accessibility hierarchy (58) to working memory (167). All of the terms are defined and exemplified; several include the names of key SLA researchers associated with their development. The book concludes with a bibliography (168–84), which lists many seminal works in SLA studies.

As SLA is a field of linguistics prolific in terminology, this small book could be a very beneficial supplement in an SLA course.