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Title: Computer-Assisted

Computer-Assisted Language Learning
Lectureted by Deng Gang E-Mail
The Text Book Adopted Computer-Assisted Language
Learning Context and Conceptualization
1. Introduction
The definition of Computer-Assisted Language
Learning (CALL)
Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL) may be
defined as the search for and study of
applications of the computer in language teaching
and learning.
The name is a fairly recent one the existence of
CALL in the academic literature has been
recognizable for about the last thirty years(up
to 1997). The subject is interdisciplinary in
nature, and it has evolved out of early efforts
to find ways of using the computer for teaching
or for instructional purposes across a wide
variety of subject areas, with the weight of
knowledge and breadth of application in language
learning ultimately resulting in a more
specialized field of study.
CALL has been made possible by the invention and
subsequent development of the computer. As a
result, the nature of CALL at any particular time
is, to a large degree, a reflection of the level
of development of the technology. In the early
days, when developers had access only to large
mainframe???computers, they needed to know a
machine language to program the computer, and
they tended towards numerical applications
because such computations were more directly
compatible with the workings of the computer. In
more recent times, computers have become smaller,
faster, and easier for the non-specialist to use.
Developments in user-friendly human-computer
interfaces and higher-level languages and
authoring systems insulate the developer from the
lower-level workings of the computer, allowing
comparatively complex applications to be written
with relative ease.
The speed with which technology has developed
since the invention of the computer has been both
extraordinary and surprisingly sustained. For
educators, the rapid and continuing introduction
of new technology into education has outpaced the
ability of teachers and developers to evaluate it
properly. No sooner do we come to terms with one
machine and develop some CALL materials for it
than another, better machine arrives to replace
it. Nevertheless, it would be irresponsible to be
led purely by the latest technological
breakthrough. Somehow, we must try and make sense
of what is going on, in spite of the rate of
change, and invent reliable and cost-effective
mechanisms for dealing with it.
Set against this background of a rapid,
continually evolving technology, there are
conceptual and practical problems that all
newcomers to CALL encounter in one way or
another. For all those who wish to create new
CALL materials, either privately or commercially,
independently or as a member of a team, even a
cursory glance at contemporary CALL activity
shows that there are a multitude of approaches.
Points of departure range dramatically from
top-down approaches centred perhaps upon a theory
of language or language learning, or a curriculum
specification, while others might develop CALL
materials from the bottom up, perhaps by using
the computer to address a learning strategy, a
macroskill, computer conferencing, or an
exploration of aspects of the technology itself.
Once the point of departure has been clarified,
there are immediately practical issues to
consider for example, the selection of the
hardware and software development tools for the
project. Hyper Card, Authorware , ToolBook,
CALIS, C, and Visual Basic, or a mark-up language
to enable publishing on the World Wide Web such
as the Hypertext or Virtual Reality Mark- up
Languages (HTML and VRML), are just a handful of
the many options now available.
Given that the way in which CALL is
conceptualized can be largely determined by the
hardware and software that is used, this initial
design choice is a most important one, and it can
have a sweeping influence on what is ultimately
created. This is a consequence of the development
process, where the strengths and limitations of
the development environment variously shape and
constrain the CALL materials that are produced.
The software then has to reach the students and
be used on a regular basis. Here there is a
twofold problem on the one hand the equipment
might have been superseded by the end of the
project on the other hand, the intended student
group might not be able to get access to the
materials because the cost of the equipment is
prohibitive??. If textbook materials prove
themselves they may be used for years with good
effect of CALL materials are effective then
often they are discarded when the next model of
computer comes along and for no other reason.
In the twentieth century, it takes a special kind
of courage to continue to use a particular
technology once it is considered to be outmoded,
even if that technology is more than adequate for
the task at hand.
Within this volatile environment, a substantial
number of CALL materials have been produced,
especially over the last ten to fifteen years,
and, judging by the number of projects described
in the CALL journals and at conferences, there is
no sign that this interest is about to diminish.
Yet it has to be said that CALL remains a
peripheral interest in the language teaching
community as a whole, still largely the domain of
the CALL enthusiast, and there is scant evidence
to suggest that CALL has really been absorbed
into mainstream thinking, education, and
Of the CALL materials that have been produced,
there has been much criticism, most especially
directed at the software produced by language
teachers. In the 1980s particularly, the inferior
quality of CALL materials was blamed on
inexperienced language teacher-authors who may
not have known how to make appropriate use of the
medium (Hofmeister and Maggs 1984 1-19 Weible
1988 67). As a result, questions have arisen
concerning the most appropriate role of the
language teacher in CALL materials production (
Smith 1988 3 Last 1989 34).
Whilst on the one hand leading writers on CALL
appear to want language teachers to be involved
in CALL (e. g. Farrington 1989 70 Sussex 1991
21), at the same time, somewhat paradoxically,
language teachers who have become CALL authors
have received much unfavourable criticism. In
this debate, it should not be forgotten that were
it not for the ambitious pioneering efforts of
language teachers in CALL, the whole endeav-our
might not have got off the ground. Arguably,
within the field of computers and education,
especially within humanities computing, it is
teachers in the area of English as a Foreign
Language (EFL) and foreign languages more
generally that have been in the vanguard.
For all the false starts and incomplete
realizations of CALL, the 1980s were a highly
creative decade. More recently, concerns have
appeared to move away from the question of the
role of the language teacher in CALL materials
development, though concerns are still expressed
about the status of CALL. In this respect, Kohn
suggests that current CALL is lacking because of
poor linguistic modeling, insufficient deployment
of natural language processing techniques, an
emphasis on special-purpose rather than
general-purpose technology, and a neglect of the
human dimension of CALL (Kohn 1994 32).
Although many of these criticisms may well be
justified, a lack of guidelines or standards for
the current generation of CALL materials has
meant that CALL authors, be they language
teachers of otherwise, have no reliable
conceptual framework, or yardstick by which to
measure their work (Smith 1988 5 Last 1989
35). Emerging most strongly in a review of the
literature on CALL materials is the lack of a
generally accepted theoretical framework that
authors can use to guide their work. The absence
of a standard for the industry, a generally
agreed set of criteria for the present generation
of CALL, or guiding principles is noted by
Smith (1988 3), Last (1989 35), and Ng and
Olivier (1987 1).
It appears that a clear, general theoretical
framework has not emerged for a number of
reasons. There is some anecdotal evidence to
suggest that materials developers fall into two
broad bands in their approach to their work. As
early as 1977, for example, in computer-assisted
learning Kemmis et al.(1977 391) observed that
many developers rely on their intuition??as
teachers rather than on research on learning. He
referred to development being practitioner???-led,
not research-based. A similar division is
noticeable in the field of artificial
intelligence, where Ginsberg (1988) maintains
that the field is divided between those who are
primarily interested in solving problems by
formulation theory (formalists), and those who
prefer to solve problems by writing programs
(proceduralists ).
A perception of this division has remained and
more recently in 1995 it was reiterated in
slightly different terms at two CALL Conferences.
First, in a keynote address at the EUROCALL
Conference in Valencia, McCarty spoke of the path
of engineering versus the path of science in
CALL( McCarty 1993, 1995), and secondly, at the
CALL Conference in Exeter, Sussex, quite
independently, contrasted Engineering CALL with
Empirical CALL (Sussex 1995). Such divisions are
worthy of further investigation and reflection.
Where theory has been used as a point of
departure, theoretical sources that have been
proposed and used have been diverse, not
surprisingly perhaps given the range of CALL
activities and the evoking nature of the field.
Theories emanating from psychology, especially
cognitive psychology and Second Language
Acquisition (SLA), are a frequent point of
departure (Schneider and Bennion 1984 Doughty
1991 Liou 1994).
The theories utilized from psychology are usually
drawn from a restricted set thought to be
amenable to the CALL context generally. For
instance, Doughty (1991) limits her focus to
comprehension-based models of SLA because of
their suitability for the CALL environment. Other
theoretical bases include theories of language
(e. g. Demaiziere 1991 Catt 1991) and theories
of instruction (England 1989 Lawrason 1988/9).
In addition, integrated frameworks have been
proposed, such as Hubbard (1992, 1996), or
Mitterer et al. (1990136) who suggest an
integrated framework using theories from
instructional design, language teaching, language
learning, and knowledge of the applicability of
the technology. Integrated frameworks recognize
the multifaceted nature of CALL materials
There is also some evidence to suggest that a
number of CALL projects have not been driven
directly by theory as such. Although some
projects clearly begin with a theoretical
orientation, others begin at a lower level of
abstraction more immediately determined by
conditions governing actual practice and problems
arising directly from it. CALL projects of this
type as they are described by their authors in
the literature include vocational language
programs which begin with addressing student
needs (Keith and Lafford 1989), Kanji Card which
uses a specific language problem as a point of
departure (Nakajima 1988, 1990) and CAEF, where
developing grammar skills is the goal (Paramskas
1989, 1995).
In all, it is clear there are a number of
possible theoretical points of departure in CALL,
either utilizing a single theory or a mix of
theoretical perspectives. It also seems apparent
that some CALL projects do not begin with a
theory at all, reflecting the comment by Kemmis
and his colleagues about work that is
practitioner-led as opposed to research-based
(Kemmis et al. 1977). To help resolve this issue
further, we need to have a clearer idea of what
CALL authors actually do when they go about
designing CALL materials.
Little is known about the conceptual frameworks
and working methods of CALL authors at present.
Sussex (1991 26) stresses the importance of
investigating the processes of CALL materials
production and says At the present time rather
little work has been done on the question of how
teachers become CAL authors how they objectify
their knowledge domains, learning, and teaching
how they conceptualize learning materials and
learning modes for transfer to the CAL medium
how they achieve this transfer how the existence
and use of CAL media influence theories of CAL,
and vice versa.
By carefully reviewing what has already been
done, and by exploring the ways in which CALL is
conceptualized, a clearer understanding of theory
and practice will emerge. This book attempts to
address these areas of concern, not by providing
definitive answers, but by shedding light on the
nature of the problems. Such a description has
the potential to improve our understanding of
the scope of CALL and prominent areas of focus
within it the theoretical sources and
conceptual frameworks of CALL authors the
possible weaknesses or gaps between theory and
As yet the scope of CALL is not well defined, and
its relationship with other related fields is not
clear. For example, some writers see CALL as a
sub-domain of Applied Linguistics (e. g. Leen and
Candlin 1986 204), while others challenge this
view (e.g. Fox 1986a 235). A description of CALL
projects to date, together with the points of
departure their authors proclaim, can help
situate CALL in relation to cognate fields and
disciplines, and practical.
Given the newness of CALL, when practitioners do
search for a theoretical foundation for their
work, they are likely to draw on theories from
the more established disciplines that surround
it. It attempting to make use of these theories,
care has to be taken to ensure that the theories
are applicable. At this time, it does CALL a
great disservice to try and force it into a
single epistemology or theoretical framework,
especially one that comes from a field where
language learning with the computer is not
foremost in mind.
It is tempting to approach the complexities of
CALL in this way, of course, because such a
strategy provides a well-trodden path for further
research and development. But what if the theory
does not encompass??the unique qualities of
learning with the aid of a computer? Ideally, the
use of non-CALL theoretical frameworks should
only occur if they are sufficiently well
articulated and powerful in themselves, and if
they are fully applicable to the context of CALL.
By reviewing the motivations for CALL materials
design, and by describing the CALL programs that
have been produced, the relationship between
theory and practice can be examined.
By describing what CALL authors actually do,
their conceptual frameworks and working methods,
their personal theory of language teaching and
learning can be set against their CALL programs,
many of which are now in circulation and can be
described and evaluated in their contexts of use.
But first a description of what has already been
done is needed.
Historical and interdisciplinary perspectives can
help provide a context for CALL. An historical
perspective can help identify topics and themes
that keep reappearing over time, probably with
good reason for example the question of the role
of the teacher in CALL. Also, it can help prevent
CALL succumbing to the latest technological
advance in a way that is blindly accepting. For
example, multimedia is much in vogue??at present,
not only in CALL but right across the educational
curriculum. While undoubtedly having much to
offer, multimedia is not new it was available
in a primitive form in the TICCIT project in the
1970s, and in a form rather similar to that of
today in the Athena Project in the late 1980s,
albeit on workstations rather than microcomputers
(see Chapter 2).
Knowledge of the approaches taken in the design
and implementation of these early multimedia
programs provides insights for the contemporary
multimedia author. A historical view is also
helpful in mapping the changing relationship
between approaches to language learning and
computing. Early in the history of CALL, a highly
structured view of language teaching and language
learning provided a straightforward path towards
materials development on the computer because the
principles behind the theory could be easily
matched to the qualities of the machine
lock-step drill and practice software was, for
example, easy to program. More recently, with the
advent of communicative views of language
teaching and learning, and with more eclectic
approaches to language teaching generally, the
relationship between pedagogy and the technology
has become more tenuous and more complex.
An interdisciplinary perspective on CALL shows it
to be a relatively new field of study that has
been subject to the influence of a number of
other disciplines. In addition to the fields of
computing and language teaching and learning,
real or potential influences in the development
of CALL have included aspects of psychology,
artificial intelligence, computational
linguistics, instructional design, and
human-computer interaction. Many of these
disciplines are relatively now in themselves,
having developed significantly since World War
They each have their own perspective and frame of
reference, they often overlap and interrelate,
and the extent to which any one discipline should
influence the development of CALL has not been
determined. At various times, CALL workers have
called upon each of these fields to guide their
own work in some way, and in Chapter 3 an
interdisciplinary perspective gives examples of
how these links have been utilized.
Having set forth a context for CALL, the book
continues with a description of how CALL authors
have conceptualized CALL. In broad terms
conceptualization is used as a label to signify
the mental picture a CALL author or a teacher has
when envisaging the use and role of the computer
in CALL. The term is used by Richards and Rodgers
(1986 15) in discussing the evolution of their
model of language teaching method. As with a
discussion of approaches and methods in language
teaching, conceptualization would seem the best
term to use for a discussion of similar issues in
It is not immediately obvious how to go about
building a picture of how CALL has been
conceptualized. On reflection, the strategy
finally taken was that used by Hirschheim et al.
(1990 22) in ascertaining the impact of
microcomputer use in the humanities. That team of
researchers used a number of component
indicators, each considered to represent a key
factor that needed to be examined if the
phenomenon as a whole were to be understood. The
indicators that are held to relate to how CALL is
conceptualized are the
language teaching and learning philosophy
role of the computer point of departure
hardware and software role of the teacher
(as contributor) development process
role of the teacher (as author) materials
A CALL authors views of language teaching and
learning are held to influence how that author
conceptualizes CALL, even if the author cannot
explain the effects or make them explicit. The
role of the computer contributes to the
conceptualization in many ways, the most
important distinction perhaps being whether the
computers role is directive or non-directive.
The point of departure describes the CALL
authors declared starting-point for a project.
Often given when CALL projects are written up and
published, points of departure may range from a
theory of language or language learning to a
problem recognized by a language teacher in the
classroom, and that is considered amenable to a
solution via the computer.
The hardware and software, in their capabilities
and limitations, are considered variously to
shape what is, and what is not possible in a CALL
project. The teacher may contribute in a
conceptualization of CALL, or the role of the
human teacher in the implementation of the
program may not be envisaged at all. The
development process is included as an indicator
because of the way the process may deform or
shape the initial conceptualization leading to an
end-product that may be very different to the one
originally conceived. As well as contributing in
some way to the conceptualization by contributing
to it, the teacher may also be involved in
developing CALL materials, that is as a CALL
The role of the teacher as developer of CALL
materials is included because of the ways in
which language teachers, through their CALL
development work, have contributed to CALLs
conceptual frameworks. Finally, a description of
the CALL materials that have already been created
is included. The CALL materials that are now
available provide tangible evidence of the ways
in which the use of the computer in language
teaching and learning has been conceptualized.
The ways in which CALL authors translate their
knowledge and experience of language teaching and
learning to the computer and produce CALL
materials is necessarily a complex and
multifaceted process. The major assumption in
this work is that these indicators are valid.
At this stage in the development of CALL all that
may be said is that the indicators for
conceptualization have face validity, and there
is a reasonable likelihood that an investigation
of these elements will provide insights on how
CALL is conceptualized.
The indicators were investigated in both the
literature reporting CALL projects and through a
survey of CALL practitioners following the work
of Stolurow and Cubillos (1983), Ng and Olivier
(1987), and Fox et al. (1990). The component
indicators for conceptualization provide the
structural framework for Chapters 4, 5, and 6
the indicators are examined in the literature in
Chapter 4 and through the CALL Survey in Chapter
5. The international CALL Survey was conducted in
late 1991 and early 1992.
A total of 213 questionnaires were distributed
and 104 (48.8) usable responses were returned.
The questionnaire was sent to 23 different
countries, and key practitioners in CALL from 18
countries replied. The key practitioners were
chosen on the basis of having written programs or
published in the field of CALL. The vast majority
of respondents (i.e. CALL authors) were
practicing language teachers (97.1). The
questionnaire combined with the information found
in the literature gives a comprehensive overview
of how CALL has been conceptualized so far.
This book is divided into eight chapters. The
first two chapters aim to set CALL in context in
order to provide a suitable background for the
discussion of CALLs conceptual frameworks.
Chapter 2 provides a historical perspective on
CALL. This chapter is by no means a full and
detailed history of CALL, but rather it is a
perspective, a synopsis of the field by decade,
in the 1960s and 1970s, in the 1980s, and in the
1990s. For each time period, CALL projects are
selected and described which are representative
of the thinking and the activity of the period,
and themes are introduced that have contemporary
Particular emphasis is placed on some of CALLs
more invariant qualities topics and issues that
tend to recur in CALL over time, such as the role
of the computer in CALL and the role of the
language teacher in relation to it. An
exploration of the context of CALL continues in
Chapter 3 where an interdisciplinary perspective
is provided. In this chapter and attempt is made
to establish links between CALL and the
disciplines that surround it, and have variously
influenced its development.
A short description of each of the related
disciplines accompanies the account. In this way
these two chapters on CALL in context provide a
setting for the rest of the book, and introduce
many of the themes that are explored in greater
detail later on. Chapters 4, 5, and 6 focus in
much more detail on how CALL has been
conceptualized, that is, how language teachers
and CALL authors have envisaged the use of the
computer in the realm of language teaching and
learning. Using the indicators that are held to
influence conceptual frameworks as an
organizational framework, Chapter 4 looks at
aspects and issues described in the literature on
CALL, and Chapter 5 presents the findings of the
international CALL Survey.
These two chapters approach the topic from
different angles, the two approaches complement
each other, and each perspective provides a
window onto the complex phenomena of
conceptualization. The threads of this
description are brought together for discussion
in Chapter 6, where particular themes are
identified and drawn out. These themes do not
account for all the ways in which CALL has been
conceptualized but they do represent recognizable
patterns that are discernible when CALL is viewed
as a whole.
Chapter 7 looks at one conceptual framework in
particular the tutor-tool framework. This
framework is presented as a potential means of
conceptualizing CALL. The framework is valuable
in helping users and developers recognize
significant features in CALL from the vast array
of CALL projects that have occurred to date.
Other CALL models and frameworks are accommodated
within the tutor-tool framework, and possible
refinements to this framework are suggested also.
The implications of the tutor-tool framework are
considered by showing how the role of the
computer, that is, whether it is used as a tutor
or as a tool, has profound implications for
methodology, integration into the curriculum,
evaluation, and the roles of the teacher and the
Finally, Chapter 8 on the nature of CALL
completes the book. Viewing CALL as a body of
work brings to light a number of issues such as
the relationship between theory and application,
and the effects the computer, and technology more
generally, may exert on the surrounding
educational environment. Finally, this chapter
concludes with some suggestions for the future,
reflecting on where the energy and the effort in
CALL might most appropriately be directed.
1. In this book the label materials will be
used to encompass the different kinds of
materials, software, courseware, programs,
packages, and learning environments that are
created in CALL. This label is used to emphasize
the connection between language learning
materials development in general where the term
materials is commonly used and CALL materials
development in particular. Though in some
instances materials and learning environments
will be distinguished and treated separately,
generally learning environments on the computer
are included under the materials umbrella.
This follows the work of Breen et al. (1979 5)
who, in the case of Communicative Language
Teaching (CLT), suggest the development of two
kinds of materials content materials as sources
of data and information and process materials to
serve as guidelines or frameworks for the
learners use of communicative knowledge and
abilities (Breen et al. 1979 5). Thus, learning
environments on the computer are likened to
process materials in that they provide frameworks
within which learners can use and practice their
communicative skills. The notion of materials as
guidelines or frameworks for learning is
reinforced by Allwright who argues for materials
to be related to the cooperative management of
language learning (Allwright 1981 5). Learning
environments on the computer fit comfortably
within this broad definition of materials.
2. A mark-up language such as HTML (the Hypertext
Mark- up Language) is a set of instructions that
are inserted into a plain text file to enable it
to be published on the World Wide Web. The set of
instructions, or tags, defines exactly how the
Web document is displayed. The tags also enable
links to be made between documents. Once on the
Web, browsers such as Netscape can interpret the
file. VRML (Virtual Reality Modelling Language)
is an emerging standard for creating
three-dimensional spaces and objects that can be
transferred easily via the Internet, then viewed
by many users at the same time.
3. In the CALL Survey the initial orientation and
points of departure are distinguished to
accommodate more abstract and more precisely
described initial positions (see Ch. 5, Apps. A
and B). For example, if a CALL author describes
the starting-point in a project rather
abstractly, as in exploration of a new
technology perhaps, then this would be
considered an initial orientation if curriculum
specifications were the starting point, however
a more concrete beginning then this would be
considered a point of departure. This distinction
can only provide a rough approximation, but it
was included in the CALL Survey because it allows
for different degrees of clarity at the outset.
2. A Historical Perspective
Three time periods
  1. the 1960s and 1970s
  2. the 1980s
  3. the 1990s.

To identify some key themes and issues that
remain important today.
1.for the 1960s and 1970s, the PLATO and TICCIT
projects 2.for the 1980s, Storyboard, and the
Athena Language Learning Project (ALLP) 3. for
the 1990s, the International Email Tandem
Network, the CAMILLE/France Inter Active project,
and the Oral Language Archive (OLA).
CALL in the 1960s and 1970s
In the 1950s and early 1960s empiricist theory
was predominant in language teaching, a theory
described by Stern (1983169) as pedagogically
audiolingualism, psychologically behaviourism,
linguistically structuralism. The principles
emanating??from these three schools of thought
were mutually supportive when applied to language
teaching and learning.
Do you ever ask your students to repeat phrases
or whole sentences, for example? Do you drill the
pronunciation and intonation of utterances? Do
you ever use drills? What about choral
drilling????? Question and answer? If the answer
to any of these questions is yes, then,
consciously or unconsciously, you are using
techniques that are features of the audiolingual
This approach has its roots in the USA during
World War II, when there was a pressing need to
train key personnel quickly and effectively in
foreign language skills. The results of the Army
Specialized Training Program are generally
regarded to have been very successful, with the
caveat that the learners were in small groups and
were highly motivated, which undoubtedly
contributed to the success of the approach.
The approach was theoretically underpinned by
structural linguistics, a movement in linguistics
that focused on the phonemic, morphological and
syntactic systems underlying the grammar of a
given language, rather than according to
traditional categories of Latin grammar. As such,
it was held that learning a language involved
mastering the building blocks of the language and
learning the rules by which these basic elements
are combined from the level of sound to the level
of sentence. The audiolingual approach was also
based on the behaviourist theory of learning,
which held that language, like other aspects of
human activity, is a form of behaviour.
In the behaviourist view, language is
elicited??by a stimulus and that stimulus then
triggers a response. The response in turn then
produces some kind of reinforcement,which, if
positive, encourages the repetition of the
response in the future or, if negative, its
suppression. When transposed to the classroom,
this gives us the classic pattern drill- Model
She went to the cinema yesterday.
She went to the theatre yesterday.
In its purest form audiolingualism aims to
promote mechanical habit-formation through
repetition of basic patterns.
Accurate manipulation of structure leads to
eventual fluency. Spoken language comes before
written language. Dialogues and drill are central
to the approach. Accurate pronunciation and
control of structure are paramount. While some of
this might seem amusingly rigid in these
enlightened times, it is worth reflecting on
actual classroom practice and noticing when
activities occur that can be said to have their
basis in the audiolingual approach.
Most teachers will at some point require learners
to repeat examples of grammatical structures in
context with a number of aims in mind stress,
rhythm, intonation, "consolidating the
structure", enabling learners to use the
structure accurately through repetition, etc.
Question and answer in open class or closed pairs
to practise a particular form can also be argued
to have its basis in the audiolingual approach,
as can, without doubt, any kind of drill.
Although the audiolingual approach in its purest
form has many weaknesses (notably the difficulty
of transferring learnt patterns to real
communication), to dismiss the audiolingual
approach as an outmoded method of the 1960s is to
ignore the reality of current classroom practice
which is based on more than 2000 years of
collective wisdom.
There seems to be a widely held perception
amongst language teachers that methods and
approaches have finite historical boundaries -
that the Grammar-Translation approach is dead,
for example. Similarly, audiolingualism was in
vogue in the 1960s but died out in the 70s after
Chomskys famous attack on behaviourism in
language learning.
B.F.Skinner and Behaviorism
Burrhus Frederic Skinner was born March 20, 1904,
in the small Pennsylvania town of
Susquehanna. Burrhus received his BA in English
from Hamilton College in upstate New York.  He
didnt fit in very well, not enjoying the
fraternity parties or the football games.  He
wrote for school paper, including articles
critical of the school, the faculty, and even Phi
Beta Kappa!  To top it off, he was an
atheist????-- in a school that required daily
chapel attendance.
He wanted to be a writer and did try, sending off
poetry and short stories.  When he graduated, he
built a study in his parents attic to
concentrate, but it just wasnt working for him.
Ultimately, he resigned himself to writing
newspaper articles on labor problems, and lived
for a while in Greenwich Village in New York City
as a bohemian?????.  After some traveling, he
decided to go back to school, this time at
Harvard.  He got his masters in psychology in
1930 and his doctorate in 1931, and stayed there
to do research until 1936.
Also in that year, he moved to Minneapolis to
teach at the University of Minnesota.  There he
met and soon married Yvonne Blue.  They had two
daughters, the second of which became famous as
the first infant to be raised in one of Skinners
inventions, the air crib.  Although it was
nothing more than a  combination crib and playpen
with glass sides and air conditioning, it looked
too much like keeping a baby in an aquarium to
catch on.
In 1945, he became the chairman of the psychology
department at Indiana University.  In 1948, he
was invited to come to Harvard, where he remained
for the rest of his life.  He was a very active
man, doing research and guiding hundreds of
doctoral candidates as well as writing many
books.  While not successful as a writer of
fiction and poetry, he became one of our best
psychology writers, including the book Walden II,
which is a fictional account of a community run
by his behaviorist principles. August 18, 1990,
B. F. Skinner died of leukemia???after becoming
perhaps the most celebrated psychologist since
Sigmund Freud.
B. F. Skinners entire system is based on operant
conditioning????.  The organism???is in the
process of operating on the environment, which
in ordinary terms means it is bouncing around it
world, doing what it does.  During this
operating, the organism encounters a special
kind of stimulus, called a reinforcing stimulus,
or simply a reinforcer.  This special stimulus
has the effect of increasing the operant ------
that is, the behavior occurring just before
the reinforcer.  This is operant conditioning 
the behavior is followed by a consequence, and
the nature of the consequence modifies the
organisms tendency to repeat the behavior in the
Imagine a rat in a cage. This is a special cage
(called, in fact, a Skinner box) that has a bar
or pedal??on one wall that, when pressed, causes
a little mechanism to release a foot pellet??into
the cage.  The rat is bouncing around the cage,
doing whatever it is rats do, when he
accidentally presses the bar and -- hey, presto!
-- a food pellet falls into the cage! The operant
is the behavior just prior to the reinforcer,
which is the food pellet, of course.  In no time
at all, the rat is furiously peddling away at the
bar, hoarding his pile of pellets in the corner
of the cage.
A behavior followed by a reinforcing stimulus
results in an increased probability of that
behavior occurring in the future.
What if you dont give the rat any more pellets? 
Apparently, hes no fool, and after a few
futile???attempts, he stops his bar-pressing
behavior.  This is called extinction??of the
operant behavior.
A behavior no longer followed by the reinforcing
stimulus results in a decreased probability of
that behavior occurring in the future.
Now, if you were to turn the pellet machine back
on, so that pressing the bar again provides the
rat with pellets, the behavior of bar-pushing
will pop right back into existence, much more
quickly than it took for the rat to learn the
behavior the first time.  This is because the
return of the reinforcer takes place in the
context of a reinforcement history that goes all
the way back to the very first time the rat was
reinforced for pushing on the bar!
Skinner likes to tell about how he accidentally
-- i.e. operantly -- came across his various
discoveries.  For example, he talks about running
low on food pellets in the middle of a study. 
Now, these were the days before Purina rat chow
and the like, so Skinner had to make his own rat
pellets, a slow and tedious task.  So he decided
to reduce the number of reinforcements he gave
his rats for whatever behavior he was trying to
condition, and, lo and behold, the rats kept up
their operant behaviors, and at a stable rate, no
less.  This is how Skinner discovered schedules
of reinforcement!
The fixed ratio schedule was the first one
Skinner discovered  If the rat presses the pedal
three times, say, he gets a goodie.  Or five
times.  Or twenty times. Or x times.  There is
a fixed ratio between behaviors and reinforcers
3 to 1, 5 to 1, 20 to 1, etc.  This is a little
like piece rate in the clothing manufacturing
industry  You get paid so much for so many
The fixed interval schedule uses a timing device
of some sort.  If the rat presses the bar at
least once during a particular stretch of time
(say 20 seconds), then he gets a goodie.  If he
fails to do so, he doesnt get a goodie. But even
if he hits that bar a hundred times during that
20 seconds, he still only gets one goodie!  One
strange thing that happens is that the rats tend
to pace themselves  They slow down the rate of
their behavior right after the reinforcer, and
speed up when the time for it gets close.
Skinner also looked at variable schedules. 
Variable ratio means you change the x each time
-- first it takes 3 presses to get a goodie, then
10, then 1, then 7 and so on.  Variable interval
means you keep changing the time period -- first
20 seconds, then 5, then 35, then 10 and so on.
In both cases, it keeps the rats on their rat
toes.  With the variable interval schedule, they
no longer pace themselves, because they now can
no longer establish a rhythm between behavior
and reward.  Most importantly, these schedules
are very resistant to extinction.  It makes
sense, if you think about it.  If you havent
gotten a reinforcer for a while, well, it could
just be that you are at a particularly bad
ratio or interval!  Just one more bar press,
maybe thisll be the one!
This, according to Skinner, is the mechanism of
gambling. You may not win very often, but you
never know whether and when youll win again.  It
could be the very next time, and if you dont
roll them dice??, or play that hand, or bet on
that number this once, youll miss on the score
of the century!
A question Skinner had to deal with was how we
get to more complex sorts of behaviors.  He
responded with the idea of shaping, or the
method of successive approximations.  Basically,
it involves first reinforcing a behavior only
vaguely similar to the one desired.  Once that is
established, you look out for variations that
come a little closer to what you want, and so on,
until you have the animal performing a behavior
that would never show up in ordinary life. 
Skinner and his students have been quite
successful in teaching simple animals to do some
quite extraordinary things.  My favorite is
teaching pigeons to bowl!
The theory of B.F. Skinner is based upon the idea
that learning is a function of change in
overt???behavior. Changes in behavior are the
result of an individual's response to events
(stimuli) that occur in the environment. A
response produces a consequence such as defining
a word, hitting a ball, or solving a math
problem. When a particular Stimulus-Response
(S-R) pattern is reinforced (rewarded), the
individual is conditioned????, ???...?to respond.
The distinctive characteristic of operant
conditioning relative to previous forms of
behaviorism (e.g., Thorndike, Hull) is that the
organism can emit responses instead of only
eliciting response due to an external stimulus.
Reinforcement is the key element in Skinner's S-R
theory. A reinforcer is anything that strengthens
the desired response. It could be verbal praise,
a good grade or a feeling of increased
accomplishment or satisfaction. The theory also
covers negative reinforcers -- any stimulus that
results in the increased frequency of a response
when it is withdrawn (different from
adversive???stimuli -- punishment -- which result
in reduced responses). A great deal of attention
was given to schedules of reinforcement (e.g.
interval versus ratio) and their effects on
establishing and maintaining behavior.
Beginning from the second of this century, a
school of linguistics, known as Structural
Linguistics, emerged as a flourishing linguistic
theory in the academic world and in language
pedagogy. Structuralism, as it is often called,
is a reaction against hitherto??traditional
grammars in that it is able to set up precise and
verifiable definitions on formal and
distributional criteria the problems of which
traditional grammars have long unable to solve.
Leonard Bloomfield 1887-1949 Leonard Bloomfield
was born in 1887. Leonard studied under many
different colleges he graduated from Harvard in
1906, and then went on to graduate from the
University of Wisconsin in 1908. Then from there
he went on to further education and studied at
the University of Chicago where he later
graduated. He spent most of his time dealing with
comparing and contrasting Germanic languages. At
the University of Ohio, Bloomfield caught his
first break as an Assistant Professor of German.
He spent seven years under that title, and then
moved on to the University of Chicago. There he
was the head Professor of German, and spent a lot
of his time (1921-1928) teaching here.
After this Leonard became more interested in the
description of languages, and how they pertained
to science. When Leonard got into this aspect of
language, it is when he wrote his masterpiece
Language. It dealt with a standard text, and had
a tremendous influence on other linguists. Until
very recently most United States linguists
considered themselves in some sense Bloomfield's
disciples, whether they actually studied under
him or not, and a great deal of American
linguistic work has taken the form of working out
questions raised and methods suggested by
Bloomfield (Online-Media Important Linguists).
Leonard had six main publications during his
lifetime, and they too have had their own little
mark in the history of linguists. His first main
book came in 1914, when he was an Assistant
Professor at the University of Illinois. It was
called Introduction to the study of Language
this dealt with the overall aspect of language
and was just the beginning of Leonard's profound
career. After this Leonard went into the
grammatical aspect of the Philippine language, he
wrote and published his next main book Tagalog
Texts with Grammatical Analysis (1917).
The next book was called Menomini Texts (1928),
one of Bloomfield's least favorable publications.
In the middle of his writing career came Language
(1933), which was the book he is renowned for.
From here Leonard went deeper into grammar, and
wrote The Stressed Vowels of American English
(1935). The last main book of Leonard
Bloomfield's career was when he went back into
the scientific research of language. It dealt
with the overall aspect of language and science,
and didn't get as much publicity as Language.
This book was called Linguistic Aspects of
Science (1939). At the end of Leonard's writing
career, he tried to write about other languages
(Dutch and Russian) but couldn't really get the
true feeling out of this, like he did with his
other books. In the end, Leonard Bloomfield is
not only considered one of the best Linguists of
his time, he is considered one of the best of all
Structuralism is a theory that uses culturally
interconnected signs to reconstruct systems of
relationships rather than studying isolated,
material things in themselves. This method found
wide use from the early 20th cent. in a variety
of fields, especially linguistics, particularly
as formulated by Ferdinand de Saussure.
Anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss used
structuralism to study the kinship systems of
different societies.
No single element in such a system has meaning
except as an integral part of a set of structural
connections. These interconnections are said to
be binary in nature and are viewed as the
permanent, organizational categories of
experience. Structuralism has been influential in
literary criticism and history, as with the work
of Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault. In France
after 1968 this search for the deep structure of
the mind was criticized by such
poststructuralists as Jacques Derrida, who
abandoned the goal of reconstructing reality
scientifically in favor of deconstructing the
illusions of metaphysics.
The noun structuralism has 3 meanings Meaning 1
linguistics defined as the analysis of formal
structures in a text or discourse  Synonym
structural linguisticsMeaning 2 an
anthropological theory that there are
unobservable social structures that generate
observable social phenomena Synonym structural
anthropologyMeaning 3 a sociological theory
based on the premise that society comes before
individuals Synonym structural sociology
Structuralism is an approach that grew to become
one of the most widely used methods of analyzing
language, culture, and society in the second half
of the 20th century. 'Structuralism', however,
does not refer to a clearly defined 'school' of
authors, although the work of Ferdinand de
Saussure is generally considered a starting
point. Structuralism is best seen as a general
approach with many different variations. As with
any cultural movement, the influences and
developments are complex.
Broadly, structuralism seeks to explore the
inter-relationships (the "structures") through
which meaning is produced within a culture.
According to structural theory, meaning within a
culture is produced and reproduced through
various practices, phenomena and activities which
serve as systems of signification. A
structuralist studies activities as diverse as
food preparation and serving rituals, religious
rites, games, literary and non-literary texts,
and other forms of entertainment to discover the
deep structures by which meaning is produced and
reproduced within a culture. For example, an
early and prominent practitioner of
structuralism, anthropologist and ethnographer
Claude Levi-Strauss, analyzed cultural phenomena
including mythology, kinship, and food
When used to examine literature, a structuralist
critic will examine the underlying relation of
elements (the 'structure') in, say, a story,
rather than focusing on its content. A basic
example are the similarities between West Side
Story and Romeo and Juliet. Even though the two
plays occur in different times and places, a
structuralist would argue that they are the same
story because they have a similar structure - in
both cases, a girl and a boy fall in love (or, as
we might say, are LOVE) despite the fact that
they belong to two groups that hate each other, a
conflict that is resolved by their death.
Consider now the story of two friendly families
(LOVE) that make an arranged marriage between
their children despite the fact that they hate
each other (-LOVE), and that the children resolve
this conflict by committing suicide to escape the
A structuralist would argue this second story is
an 'inversion' of the first, because the
relationship between the values of love and the
two pairs of parties involved have been reversed.
In sum, a structuralist would thus argue that the
'meaning' of a story lies in uncovering this
structure rather than, say, discovering the
intention of the author who wrote it.
Some feel that a structuralist analysis helps
pierce through the confusing veil of life to
reveal the hidden, underlying, logically complete
structure. Others would argue that structuralism
simply reads too much into 'texts' (in the widest
sense) and allows clever professors to invent
meanings that aren't actually there. There are a
variety of positions in between these two
extremes, and in fact many of the debates around
structuralism focus on trying to clarify issues
of just this sort.
Saussure's Course Ferdinand de Saussure's Course
in General Linguistics (1916) is generally seen
as being the origin of structuralism. Although
Saussure was, like his contemporaries, interested
in historical linguistics, in the Course he
developed a more general theory of semiology.
This approach focused on examining how the
elements of language related to each other in the
present ('synchronically' rather than
'diachronically'). He thus focused not on the use
of language (parole, or talk) but the underlying
system of language (langue) of which any
particular utterance was an expression. Finally,
he argued that linguistic signs were composed of
two parts, a 'signifier' (roughly, the sound of a
word) and a 'signified' (the concept or meaning
of the word).
This was quite different from previous approaches
to language which focused on the relationship
between words and the things in the world they
designated. By focusing on the internal
constitution of signs rather than focusing on
their relationship to objects in the world,
Saussure made the anatomy and structure of
language something that could be analyzed and
Structuralism in linguistics Saussure's Course
influenced many linguists in the period between
WWI and WWII. In America, for instance, Leonard
Bloomfield developed his own version of
structural linguistics, as did Louis Hjelmslev in
Scandinavia. In France Antoine Meillet and Émile
Benveniste would continue Saussure's program.
Most importantly, however, members of the Prague
School of linguistics such as Roman Jakobson and
Nikolai Trubetzkoy conducted research that would
be greatly influential.
The clearest and most important example of Prague
School structuralism lies in phonemics. Rather
than simply compile a list of which sounds occur
in a language, the Prague School sought to
examine how they were related. They determined
that the inventory of sounds in a language could
be analyzed in terms of a series of contrasts.
Thus in English the words 'pat' and 'bat' are
different because the 'p' and 'b' sounds
contrast. The difference between them is that you
vocalize while saying a 'b' while you do not when
saying a 'p'. Thus in English there is a contrast
between voiced and non-voiced consonants.
Analyzing sounds in terms of contrastive features
also opens up comparative scope - it makes clear,
for instance, that the difficulty Japanese
speakers have differentiating between 'r' and 'l'
in English is due to the fact that these two
sounds are not contrastive in Japanese.
While this approach is now standard in
linguistics, it was revolutionary at the time.
Phonology would become the paradigmatic basis for
structuralism in a number of different forms.
Structuralism after the War After WWII, and
particularly in the 1960s, Structuralism surged
to prominence in France and it was
structuralism's initial popularity in this
country which led it to spread across the
globe. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s,
existentialism such as that practiced by
Jean-Paul Sartre was the dominant mood.
Structuralism rejected existentialism's notion of
radical human freedom and focused instead on the
way that human behavior is determined by
cultural, social, and psychological structures.
The most important initial work on this score was
Claude Levi-Strauss's 1949 volume Elementary
Structures of Kinship. Levi-Strauss had known
Jakobson during their time together in New York
during WWII and was influenced by both Jakobson's
structuralism as well as the American
anthropological tradition. In Elementary
Structures he examined kinship????systems from a
structural point of view and demonstrated how
apparently different social organizations were in
fact different permutations of a few basic
kinship structures. In the late 1950s he
published Structural Anthropology, a collection
of essays outlining his program for
By the early 1960s structuralism as a movement
was coming into its own and some believed that it
offered a single unified approach to human life
that would embrace all disciplines. Roland
Barthes and Jacques Derrida focused on how
structuralism could be applied to literature.
Jacques Lacan (and, in a different way, Jean
Piaget) applied structuralism to the study of
psychology, blending Freud and Saussure. Michel
Foucault's book The Order of Things examined the
history of science to study how structures of
epistemology???, or epistemes shaped how people
imagined knowledge and knowing (though Foucault
would later explicitly deny affiliation with the
structuralist movement). Louis Althusser combined
Marxism and structuralism to create his own brand
of social analysis. Other authors in France and
abroad have since extended structural analysis to
practically every discipline.
The definition of 'structuralism' also shifted as
a result of its popularity. As its popularity as
a movement waxed and waned, some authors
considered themselves 'structuralists' only to
later eschew the label. Additionally, the term
has slightly different meanings in French and
English. In the US, for instance, Derrida is
considered the paradigm of post-structuralism
while in France he is labeled a structuralist.
Finally, some authors wrote in several different
styles. Barthes, for instance, wrote some books
which are clearly structuralist and others which
are clearly not.
Reactions to structuralism Today structuralism
has been superceded by approaches such as
post-structuralism and deconstruction. There are
many reasons for this. Structuralism has often
been criticized for being ahistorical and for
favoring deterministic structural forces over the
ability of individual people to act. As the
political turbulence of the 1960s and 1970s (and
particularly the student uprisings of May 1968)
began affecting the academy, issues of power and
political struggle moved to the center of
people's attention. In the 1980s, deconstruction
and its emphasis on the fundamental ambiguity of
language - rather than its crystalline logical
structure - became popular. By the end of the
century Structuralism was seen as a historically
important school of thought, but it was the
movements it spawned, rather than structuralism
itself, which commanded attention.
A notable problem is the definitions of parts of
speech, e.g. traditional grammar defines that 'a
pronoun stands for a noun', but there are many
words which can be used instead of a noun and
they are not necessarily pronouns and follow
different distributional criteria in a sentence
from those we commonly name as 'pronouns'.
Structuralist grammar, on the other hand, sees
languages in form as consisting of various
constituent structures, thus 'if words occur
regularly in the same patterns - the same
positions in sentences, we say that they belong
to the same form class...' (Paul Roberts, quoted
in Roulet 197523).
The ideas of this kind led to the substitution
drills widely used in teaching English as a
foreign language in the 50s and 60s known as the
Audio-lingual Method which is still applied today
in some classrooms in the world. We see that the
idea is the elaboration of the de Saussure's
'langue is forme, non substance' and his
'associative relations'.
The movement of Structuralism is represented by
American linguists C.C. Fries and Robert Lado in
the University of Michigan.  Fries' influen
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