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Inner Speech in Second Language Acquisition

  1. MaríA C. M. De Guerrero

Published Online: 5 NOV 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9781405198431.wbeal0539

The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics

How to Cite

De Guerrero, M. C. M. 2012. Inner Speech in Second Language Acquisition. The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 5 NOV 2012


Though commonly associated with talking to oneself in silence, inner speech is a much more encompassing and consequential phenomenon than internal self-talk. Inner speech is a socially derived mechanism that makes possible verbal (symbolic) thought. Lev Vygotsky (1986), who may be considered to date the foremost proponent of a theory of inner speech, maintained that to understand verbal thought it was necessary to trace the development of inner speech to its ontogenetic precursors. Working within a socio-cultural-historical approach to cognition, Vygotsky (1986) saw the genesis of inner speech as the development of the capacity to “think words” (p. 230) silently. Children, Vygotsky claimed, start using language in a purely social fashion to communicate with others. However, through the process of internalization of sociocultural experience, at about school age children begin to use social speech to mediate mental functions. In this process, speech ceases to be merely social; it acquires psychological status; it becomes intellectual speech for the self.


  • bilingualism;
  • esl/efl;
  • language and social interaction;
  • psycholinguistics;
  • second language acquisition;
  • sociocultural language studies