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Identity and Second Language Acquisition

  1. Bonny Norton

Published Online: 5 NOV 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9781405198431.wbeal0521

The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics

How to Cite

Norton, B. 2012. Identity and Second Language Acquisition. The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 5 NOV 2012


To understand the vibrant and increasing interest in identity and second language acquisition (SLA), it is important to understand changing conceptions of the individual, language, and learning in the field. Each of these areas is associated with broader trends in the social sciences, which represent a shift in the field from a predominantly psycholinguistic approach to SLA to include a greater focus on sociological and anthropological dimensions of language learning, particularly with reference to sociocultural, poststructural, and critical theory (Norton & Toohey, 2001; Block, 2007b; Morgan, 2007). SLA researchers who are interested in identity are interested not only in linguistic input and output in SLA, but in the relationship between the language learner and the larger social world. They question the view that learners can be defined in binary terms as motivated or unmotivated, introverted or extroverted, without considering that such affective factors are frequently socially constructed, changing across time and space, and possibly coexisting in contradictory ways within a single individual. These researchers have examined the diverse social, historical, and cultural contexts in which language learning takes place, and how learners negotiate and sometimes resist the diverse positions those contexts offer them.


  • esl/efl;
  • educational linguistics;
  • second language acquisition;
  • sociolinguistics;
  • identity;
  • multilingualism