Extending Firth and Wagner's (1997) ontological perspective to L2 classroom praxis and teacher education

James P. Lantolf, Karen E. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


In this article, we extend Firth and Wagner's (1997) call for an ontological perspective that (re)unites the individual and the social by proposing some fundamental implications that this call has for second language (L2) classroom praxis and teacher education. We propose that the (re)unification of language and culture (re)establishes the unity between people and language, and thus reorients the focus of language instruction to feature centrally how meaning is situated in concrete human activity rather than in the language itself. From this stance, the goal of L2 classroom praxis is for learners to develop a conceptual understanding of how meaning gets expressed through the L2 in concrete everyday activity, and to build their capacity to make choices about how to function in and potentially alter that activity to suit their needs and goals. To make our proposal concrete, we draw on two classroom case studies: on verbal aspect in Spanish and learning to read L2 literature, as illustrations of conceptualizing learning and use as dialectically intertwined. We also focus on how foregrounding the meaning that results from the reintegration of language and culture reorients both L2 classroom praxis and how L2 teachers come to think about language, language learning, and language teaching.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)877-892
Number of pages16
JournalModern Language Journal
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
StatePublished - Dec 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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