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Sociocultural and Sociolinguistic Approaches to the Role of the Social Context in Online L2 Learning: A Comparative Analysis of Two Empirical Studies



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This paper compares and evaluates sociocultural and sociolinguistic approaches to the role of the social context in second language learning (L2 learning), through analysing two empirical studies about online interaction. The paper argues that due to the different focus of study in the two perspectives, each approach only provides partial explanations of the complex role of the social context in online L2 learning contexts. While the developmental perspective taken by the sociocultural approach provides a detailed account of how learning is socially mediated from external to the internal planes, there is an absence of exploration about how learners themselves can impact the learning process. Contrastingly, while the sociolinguistic approach provides rich insight to how learner affect, identities, stances and ideologies can impact L2 learning processes, how these factors impact the actual acquisition of L2 code is rather unclear. After a critical evaluation of the two approaches, the paper concludes that each of the partial explanations provided by the two approaches are complementary in nature, and that together, they provide a useful tool kit for understanding the complex social nature of L2 learning. Nonetheless, some of the rigid premises set out by both approaches, such as expert-novice participation and language-culture correlation need to be re-evaluated given the backdrop of today’s multilingual age where technology and globalization have fundamentally changed the ways we interact and learn.



sociocultural theory, sociolinguistic theory, online interaction, social context, L2 learning

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Cambridge Educational Research e-Journal (CERJ)

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CERJ, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge

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