Beyond the Brain: Intercorporeality and Co-Operative Action for SLA Studies

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


It is widely assumed that the cognitivist era is over in Second Language Acquisition (SLA) studies. This critical review essay (a) questions this assumption, (b) presents alternative views from beyond the field to help it move in a noncognitivist direction, and (c) discusses prospects for a noncognitivist future in SLA studies. I begin by briefly reviewing the history of cognitivism, by which I mean a mind/brain-centric view of human existence and behavior. I then argue that SLA studies remain under cognitivist influence. Next, I review 2 recent books that offer strong theoretical and empirical bases for studying the embodied, affective, social, and ecological nature of human action, including learning and teaching. The first book, Meyer, Streeck, and Jordan's (2017) co-edited Intercorporeality, explores the consequences of being a body in a world of other such bodies, versus the cognitivist vision of disembodied mind/brain. The second book, Goodwin's (2018a) Co-operative Action, develops and empirically illustrates a theory of social action wherein heterogeneous, multimodal cultural tools and practices including language combine, accumulate, and transform in moment-to-moment use. Both books view human existence and action as fundamentally “ecosocial”—embodied, affective, and adaptive to human and nonhuman environments—yet they differ markedly in content and implications. Goodwin's painstaking empirical analyses, for instance, including of teaching and learning, show co-operative action unfolding in real time. I conclude by discussing current developments in SLA studies that point toward a noncognitive future for the field.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)724-738
Number of pages15
JournalModern Language Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019


  • ecological approach
  • embodiment
  • interaction
  • multimodality
  • second language acquisition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


Dive into the research topics of 'Beyond the Brain: Intercorporeality and Co-Operative Action for SLA Studies'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this