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Individual Differences: Interplay of Learner Characteristics and Learning Environment


  • I would like to thank Peter MacIntyre for his helpful comments on a previous version of this article.

concerning this article should be addressed to Zoltán Dörnyei, School of English Studies, University of Nottingham, University Park, Nottingham NG7 2RD, UK. Internet:


The notion of language as a complex adaptive system has been conceived within an agent-based framework, which highlights the significance of individual-level variation in the characteristics and contextual circumstances of the learner/speaker. Yet, in spite of this emphasis, currently we know relatively little about the interplay among language, agent, and environment in the language acquisition process, which highlights the need for further research in this area. This article is intended to pursue this agenda by discussing four key issues in this respect: (a) conceptualizing the agent, (b) conceptualizing the environment and its relationship to the agent, (c) operationalizing the dynamic relationship among language, agent, and environment, and (d) researching dynamic systems.