AUTHOR: de Guerrero, Maria C. M.
TITLE: Inner Speech -- L2
SUBTITLE: Thinking Words in a Second Language
SERIES: Educational Linguistics 6
Anna Franca Plastina, Dipartimento di Linguistica, Università della
The book pinpoints the features of second language (L2) inner
speech and analyses the processes which trigger its development.
Throughout the volume, focus is placed on inner speech conceived
as ''the internal (covert) and nonaudible forms of speech for oneself,
such as mental rehearsal and internal self-talk'' (xii). External
manifestations of self-directed speech are only marginally treated as
the author's main aim is to explore the social construct of ''the faculty
to conjure up in the mind words in a second language (L2)'' (xi) within
the sociocultural theory framework (Vygotsky 1978, 1986; Leontiev
1981; Sokolov 1972; Vocate 1994).
The author offers a comprehensive overview of the issue, covering
historical background information and theoretical principles, besides
providing insights into the study of inner speech both in the speaker's
first language (L1) and in L2 from an articulated methodological,
empirical and pedagogical perspective.
The book is addressed to scholars with a specific interest in
sociocultural theory application, to researchers, educators, and
students in the fields of L2 and Foreign Language (FL) learning,
applied linguistics, language and cognition, and psycholinguistics. It
might also be a useful resource book for those interested in gaining
an understanding of the role played by inner speech in mediating
language and thought.
Chapter 1, ''Understanding Inner Speech'', sets the foundations for the
book as it provides an overview of the concept of inner speech in a
historical, philosophical and theoretical frame. In this first section, the
essential tenets of the sociocultural theory framework are also
introduced to facilitate the reader in fully grasping an understanding of
the inner speech processes related to L2 learning. The genetic
approach in the analysis of higher mental functions and Activity
Theory are presented as significant contributions to the evolution of
sociocultural theory. The chapter then ends with an explanatory
section which defines and delimits inner speech, besides providing an
analytical explanation of terms associated with the concept of inner
speech (verbal thought, thinking in (a) language, language of
thought/language for thought, intrapersonal communication, self-talk,
covert linguistic behavior, mental rehearsal, and private speech).
In Chapter 2, ''Thinking Words in One's First Language'', Guerrero
introduces research and theoretical views on inner speech in the L1
and specifies that ''the greatest bulk of research on inner speech has
been conducted from an L1 perspective'' (p.27). The chapter covers a
literature review of inner speech firstly from a sociocultural approach
which is extensively treated. Then a concise miscellany of cognitive
approaches (Frawley's sociocomputational approach, 1997; Clarke's
supracommunicative view, 1998; Carruthers' modular hypothesis,
1998) are presented with the intent to illustrate how the phenomenon
of inner speech is tackled from various positions other than from the
sociocultural perspective. Finally, brain-imaging research is discussed
insofar that it enables brain functions to be examined by techniques
such as positron emission tomography (PET) and magnetic resonance
imaging (MRI) during inner speech activity. The chapter concludes
with a list of queries on the implications for L2 inner speech, deriving
from the L1 literature formerly reviewed.
In tackling the issue of the available literature on inner speech and L2
learning, Chapter 3, ''Thinking Words in a Second Language'', is laid
out according to five main themes:
1. inner speech as verbal thought in L2;
2. the internalization of social speech as L2 inner speech;
3. the role of inner speech in L2 reading and writing;
4. L2 mental rehearsal;
5. L2 inner speech activity manifested through brain-imaging
Overall, the chapter is a salient part of the book as it provides the
background to the following chapters 5-8.
Chapter 4, ''Methodology of Research on Inner Speech'', deals with
the methodological difficulty faced by researchers in investigating
inner speech as a covert verbal activity. The strengths and
weaknesses of Vygotsky's experimental-genetic method of
investigation are firstly illustrated and are then followed by a
discussion of an extensive range of major alternative methods
employed (e.g. verbal reports). Some less used techniques (Q-
methodology, cued recall, thought-sampling) and laboratory
tools/techniques are also examined. The pros and cons of each
method are clearly outlined with analytical reference to their potential
implementation in inner-speech study and induce researchers to
reflect on their own methodological orientation.
Chapter 5 , ''L2 Inner Speech: What Learners Say'', focuses mainly on
two empirical research studies carried out by the author and highlights
the phenomenon of inner speech as perceived from the L2 learner's
viewpoint. The first study draws on L2 mental rehearsal supported by
verbal report, whereas the second is based on the early stages of L2
inner speech, using learners' diaries and the stimulated recall
technique. In the last section of the chapter where the pros and cons
of verbal report methodology are examined, the author warns
that: ''verbal report data, whether introspective or retrospective,
cannot go into the unconscious, inaccessible inner speech processes,
such as how meaning is vested on thoughts and to what extent the L1
or the L2 is implicated at the deep conceptual stage''(p. 151). From
her findings, Guerrero concludes that early attempts at internalizing
external social L2 speech are necessary for the development of L2
inner speech although L1 continues to be the predominant tool even
at advanced levels of L2 development.
Chapter 6, ''An Integrated View of the Origin, Nature, and
Development of L2 Inner Speech'', blends L1 and L2 research reviews
with sociocultural theory principles, as from the previous book
chapters, to explore L2 inner speech and its ontogenesis and
microgenetic process in an integrated perspective. Inner speech, both
as the process of internalization of L2 and as externalization of
thought, is amply discussed. Subsequently, the forms and functions of
L2 inner speech are outlined and similar traits with L1- ''a tendency
toward syntactic abbreviation, semantic condensation, and sonority in
the mind'' (p.189) – are identified. In the last section, the reader's
attention is drawn to the impact of inner speech on the construction of
an L2 identity.
Chapter 7, ''Developing L2 Inner Speech: A Pedagogical Perspective'',
specifically addresses instructional processes whereby learning
strategies, deployed by learners, and teaching techniques deemed
useful for L2 inner speech development, are strongly considered. The
chapter draws three salient points:
1. L2 inner speech development can be fostered propitiously in
2. ''effective intramental use of the L2, alone or in conjunction with the
L1, is essential for becoming literate in the L2'' (p.211);
3. awareness-raising of inner speech may enhance learners' L2
intentional use and language control.
Chapter 8, ''Synthesis and Directions for Further Research'', firstly
summarises the theoretical principals, the empirical outcomes and the
pedagogical implications of inner speech introduced in the present
volume. It then provides thoughtful suggestions for pursuing further
research in four main areas, namely: ''(1) aspects concerning the
nature, development, and use of L2 inner speech, (2) effects of
pedagogical intervention, (3) application of under-used or novel
methodological approaches, and (4) continued theorizing'' (p.216).
The author also includes an appendix with instructions directed to L2
learners on how to keep a diary account of their experience of inner
speech in English. The appendix provides 14 direct questions which
guide L2 learners in writing about their inner-speech experience.
Initially, readers may feel overwhelmed by the amount and complexity
of information on the phenomenon of inner speech provided in the
volume. However, the coherently organized structure of the book
easily guides them through the relevant specific content concerning
the history, theory, methodology and pedagogy related to tackling the
issue of inner speech. All these areas are covered extensively and in
detail. The historical dimension of research on inner speech and the
clear definitions of essential notions associated with the concept
(Chapter 1) are particularly helpful for readers with no prior
knowledge of the phenomenon.
Furthermore, the author encourages the readership to gain new
insights into L2 inner speech starting from an L1 perspective within
the sociocultural theory framework by reviewing the pertinent
literature. One area requiring a slightly more extensive elaboration,
however, appears to be that of other approaches to the issue
(Chapter 2). Particularly, in the section devoted to ''cognitive
approaches to inner speech: a miscellany'', some more elaborated
and yet relatively brief discussion would have raised the reader's
awareness of the contrast between other approaches and the one
adopted in the book.
On the other hand, the wide coverage of research methods on inner
speech (Chapter 4) supports researchers and applied linguists in
acquiring the proper conceptualisations and skills to implement their
investigations of the issue. The section on neuroimaging, however,
might be less accessible to much of the targeted audience.
Nevertheless, the scientific-methodological aspect is well balanced by
the author's empirical case studies where the L2 learner becomes
overtly central to the issue.
Moreover, both processes of internalization and externalization of L2
inner speech are well elucidated and even the general reader grasps
a good understanding of the features of the phenomenon. Educators,
in particular, can benefit from the content of Chapter 7 which
increases professional awareness of how to relate teaching praxis to
the learner's use of both L1 and L2 in propitious classroom
environments. In this view, the author positively suggests encouraging
L2 learners to engage in diary-keeping (appendix). This practice
would benefit not only the learners but also applied linguistic
researchers and educators' understanding of L2 inner speech related
to learning styles. Currently, there are still persistent issues which
have ''prevented styles from becoming accessible and practical for
classroom use'' (Dörnyei, 2005:157) and, certainly, L2 inner speech
has been neglected in L2 educational settings.
Overall, Guerrero achieves the objectives set in each chapter, moving
from one perspective to another with a relatively natural flow.
Conclusions drawn at the end of each chapter prove also helpful for
those readers who are novices to the issue dealt.
Generally speaking, the book is recommended to experienced
researchers/educators as a source of new inspiration to delve more
deeply into their professional practice and to novice researchers and
students in the fields of L2 and Foreign Language (FL) learning,
applied linguistics, language and cognition, and psycholinguistics who
will value this original contribution to the relatively unexplored area of
L2 inner speech.
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and thought. Interdisciplinary themes (pp. 94-119). Cambridge, U.K:
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Clarke, A. (1998). Magic words: How language augments human
computation. In P. Carruthers & J. Boucher (Eds.), Language and
thought. Interdisciplinary themes (pp. 162-183). Cambridge, U.K:
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Dörnyei, Z. (2005). The Psychology of the Language Learner:
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minds (pp. 3-31), Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
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