Symbiotic gesture and the sociocognitive visibility of grammar in second language acquisition

Eton Churchill, Hanako Okada, Takako Nishino, DWight Atkinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


This article argues for the embodied and environmentally embedded nature of second language acquisition (SLA). Through fine-grained analysis of interaction using Goodwin's (2003a) concept of symbiotic gesture-gesture coupled with its rich environmental context to produce complex social action-we illustrate how a tutor, learner, and grammar worksheet interact to create perceptible links across cognition, social action, and the material world in studying English grammar. We begin by summarizing what we mean by a sociocognitive approach to SLA. We then describe the mundane-looking grammar worksheet as a complex sociocognitive resource that enables tutor-learner interaction. Next, we provide an extended description of the tutor's repeated use of a symbiotic gesture to make her perception of the grammar instantiated in the worksheet publicly available to the learner. We conclude by arguing that SLA involves the dynamic, interactive alignment of learners, teachers, and their ever-changing environments, suggesting that symbiotic gesture is but one example of humanly improvised resources guiding ecosocial alignment and participation in SLA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)234-253
Number of pages20
JournalModern Language Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

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