Swain Modulation

Swain Modulation

  • Submitted By: cgarijo
  • Date Submitted: 01/21/2009 9:02 AM
  • Category: English
  • Words: 6341
  • Page: 26
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In Byrnes, H. (Ed) (2006). Advanced Language Learning: The contribution of Halliday and Vygotsky. London: Continuum. Pp 95-108.

Languaging, Agency, and Collaboration in Advanced Second Language


Merrill Swain

The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto



The title of this chapter has four parts: languaging; agency; collaboration; and advanced second language proficiency. My intention is to foreground the concept of languaging and its importance to the notion of “advancedness” in second language proficiency. This I will do by discussing the concept of languaging and concretizing it with examples taken from several data sets I have been working with over the last few years. The examples I will be using for illustrative purposes have been selected from studies in which the participants were asked to engage in various language-related activities together. What is seen in the examples is their agency in action. In that sense, the second and third parts of my title serve as the context for the examples I have selected.
Several of Vygotsky’s insights into the relationship between language and thought serve as the basis of the arguments presented in this chapter. Vygotsky (1978, 1987) argued that the development and functioning of all higher mental processes (cognition) are mediated, and that language is one of the most important mediating tools of the mind. As such, speaking and writing shape and reshape cognition. This shaping and reshaping of cognition is an aspect of learning, and is made visible as learners talk through with themselves or others the meanings they have, and make sense of them. This means that the capacity for thinking is linked to our capacity for languaging – the two are united in a dialectical relationship.

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For some time now, I have been searching for a word that puts the focus in second language learning on the importance of...

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