LINGUIST List 13.1178

Mon Apr 29 2002

Disc: Re "Overcoming Plateaus in SLA"

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>


  1. Ronald SHEEN, Re: 13.1160, Diss: Applied Ling: Zapata "Overcoming Plateaus..."

Message 1: Re: 13.1160, Diss: Applied Ling: Zapata "Overcoming Plateaus..."

Date: Sun, 28 Apr 2002 09:20:49 -0400
From: Ronald SHEEN <>
Subject: Re: 13.1160, Diss: Applied Ling: Zapata "Overcoming Plateaus..."

(addendum to 13.1167)

Further to my comments and queries on this dissertation abstract, the 
following has come to mind. It would appear from the details of the 
abstract that the dissertation is squarely in a domain which entails 
"...reconceptualizing second and foreign language learning using a broader, 
sociocultural perspective of language learning with practical concerns for 
nurturing classroom communities of successful second and foreign language 
learners." (Kelly & Verplaetz, 2000:1-2).

Such a new perspective may well offer new insights into the phenomenon
of successful language learning. However, in what I have read of the
findings derived from this new approach, I have been underwhelmed by
the evidence offered in support. In fact, what is striking is the
lack of empirical evidence. Kelly & Verplaetz (2000) offered fourteen
chapters on the findings of research studies from this perspective.
What was striking therein was the lack of substantive linguistic
evidence of actual learning. I published a long highly critical
review of this book on this List but received no reaction or response.

Given this, I am wondering what Argenis A. Zapata offers as empirical 
evidence to support his conclusion. He concludes, for example, that some 
students did, in fact, overcome their plateaus. I'd appreciate his 
specifying the data he used as evidence of this progress. I assume that 
the evidence was derived, at least, from oral production. If it was not, 
it does not constitute reliable evidence. Even if it was, it may still be 
suspect if the learners were aware of what was afoot. The only truly 
reliable evidence is that derived from fully spontaneous oral production - 
extremely difficult to collect.

I write from experience here. That is, in ongoing research on 
defossilization I have been conducting for some time (not yet published), 
students in oral interviews apparently show that they have defossilized 
some element or other. Yet, in spontaneous oral production witnessed 
later, they often reproduce the fossilized form. The evidence offered by 
Argenis A Zapata should, therefore, prove to be of some interest to List 

Refs: Kelly, J.K. & Verplaetz, L.S. (Eds.) (2000) "Second and Foreign 
Language Learning Through Classroom Interaction". London: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Ron Sheen University of Quebec in Trois Rivieres, Canada.
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