This chapter takes a system view on second language (L2) development. However, unlike proponents of Complex Dynamic Systems Theory (CDST) viewing the developmental system as ever dynamic without a finite state, we take up a long-standing observation about a signature L2 phenomenon, inter-learner differential attainment, and theorize about its ontology. Drawing on a fundamental physics law, the Law of Conservation of Energy – importantly, not only conceptually but also mathematically – we lay out the key parameters and their interactional relationship in engineering L2 differential attainment. The parameters include aptitude, motivation, L2 input, and L1-TL distance, all of them interacting over time vis-à-vis the developmental positioning of the learner once s/he enters the field of learning, another concept key to the system view we expound in this chapter. The resulting theory, Energy Conservation Theory in L2 or ECT-L2, promises broad descriptive, explanatory, and predictive powers. We discuss the theory in conjunction with CDST, arguing for their complementarity.
Complex system, complexity theory, and L2 development
An SLA-unique phenomenon and key variables
Energy conservation in L1A (ECT-L2)
A close-up of interconnectedness and self-adaptation
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Cited by 5 other publications
Fogal, Gary G
2020. Investigating Variability in L2 Development: Extending a Complexity Theory Perspective on L2 Writing Studies and Authorial Voice. Applied Linguistics 41:4 ► pp. 575 ff.
Han, ZhaoHong & Gang Bao
2023. Critical period in second language acquisition: The age-attainment geometry. Frontiers in Physics 11
2023. Energy conservation theory for second language acquisition (ECT-L2A): a partial validation of kinetic energy–aptitude and motivation. Frontiers in Physics 11
2023. Complex dynamic systems theory: A webinar with Diane Larsen-Freeman. Language Teaching 56:3 ► pp. 402 ff.
Levine, Glenn S.
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