Abstract

Seeing language as a complex, dynamic system and language use/acquisition as dynamic adaptedness (‘a make-do’ solution) to a specific context proves a useful way of understanding change in progress, such as that which occurs with a developing L2 system. This emergentist shift of perspective provides another way of understanding previously observed characteristics of learner language, that is that its development is not discrete and stage-like but more like the waxing and waning of patterns; that, from a target-language perspective, certain aspects of the behavior are progressive, others, regressive; that change can be gradual and it can be sudden; and that the latter notably heralds the emergence of a new order qualitatively different and novel from earlier organizations. In addition, when group data are disaggregated, it is clear that there are many paths to development. By closely examining the oral and written production of five Chinese learners of English, the emergence of complexity, fluency, and accuracy can be seen, not as the unfolding of some prearranged plan, but rather as the system adapting to a changing context, in which the language resources of each individual are uniquely transformed through use.

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