A Place for Optimality Theory in Language Teacher Education: A Contemporary Linguistic Framework

So the countdown has begun and will soon be presenting at the upcoming 3rd BUiD International Conference, which will cover Current Trends in Teacher Education at the British University in Dubai on Thursday 16th May and Friday 17th May, 2013. This year’s invited speakers are Prof. Steve Walsh, Prof. Thomas Farrell, and Dr Simon Phipps.

The title of my talk is entitled “A Place for Optimality Theory in Language Teacher Education: A Contemporary Linguistic Framework” and have provided the abstract below this message. The programme schedule can be accessed from the following link: http://www.buid.ac.ae/ctte/programme.html

This presentation has two main goals. First, to build a bridge between the Linguistics-Applied (L-A) and Applied-Linguistics (A-L) dichotomy (Davies and Elder, 2004). Second, to apply the top-down view of Optimality Theory (hereafter, OT; McCarthy & Prince, 1994, 1995; Prince & Smolensky, 1993) model to language teacher education. In principle, L-A looks ‘inward’ and uses language data to develop our linguistic knowledge about language, and is concerned in developing new theory, thus adopts a theory-then-research approach. A-L, by contrast, looks ‘outward’ and is concerned with real-world problems in which language is a central issue, thus adopts a research-then-theory approach. With this is mind, OT has been initially applied to phonology also within the L-A approach, and later extended to semantics and syntax, although not as widely. The application of this constraint based theory within the A-L approach is not yet widely attested, and its application to language teacher education in this respect will be a first attempt. This motive stems from the need to better understand the core acquisition processes within a unified framework; these include inter- and intra-speaker variation, the emergence of the unmarked, progression as well as regression. OT is examined more specifically in the context of second language phonology and pedagogy. The fulfillment of this task will, I hope, encourage the use of OT as an analytical tool for language teacher education research.

Davies, A., and Elder, C. (2004) (Eds.). The Handbook of Applied Linguistics. Blackwell Publishing.

McCarthy, J., & Prince, A. (1994). The emergence of the unmarked: Optimality in prosodic morphology. Northeastern Linguistic Society, 24, 333–379.

McCarthy, J. J., & Prince, A. S. (1995). Faithfulness and reduplicative identity. In J. N. Beckman, L. W. Dickey, & S. Urbanczyk (Eds.), University of Massachusetts Occasional Papers, 18 (pp. 249–384). Amherst, MA: Graduate Linguistic Student Association, University of Massachusetts.

Prince, A., & Smolensky, P. (1993). Optimality theory: Constraint interaction in generative grammar (Tech. Rep. No. 2). New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Center for Cognitive Science, Rutgers University.


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