L2 development as cognitive-emotive process

Matthew E. Poehner, Merrill Swain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


The aim of this paper is twofold. On a conceptual level, we argue that the cognitive and emotive exist in dialectic relation to one another and that as such both are ever present in psychological activity, including L2 development. Related to this first point, we seek to orient researchers and practitioners to ways in which interactions with learners may simultaneously attend to both aspects of this cognitive-emotive dialectic to optimally promote learner development. We begin with an example that demonstrates the intertwining of cognition and emotion, thus setting the scene for what follows: a discussion of the concept of perezhivanie as the most explicit and detailed discussion of the cognitive-emotive unity in Vygotsky's writings. We follow this with an overview of more recent work within SCT that has elaborated upon Vygotsky's ideas and that further specifies the genesis of the emotive as an inherent component of human psychology and one that is always in relation to the cognitive. With this as background, we turn to the research of Reuven Feuerstein, whose clinical work with learners with special needs aligns closely with SCT principles and includes the emotive as both an element of learner functioning that must be attended to during cognitive intervention as well as a legitimate focus of mediation in its own right. Data from a recent project involving Mediated Development, an interactional framework derived from Vygotsky's writings and influenced by the work of Feuerstein, are discussed as illustrative of what may be revealed when mediator focus in joint engagement with a learner is on the cognitive-emotive unity. We conclude that the concept of perezhivanie, understood as a cognitive-emotive dialectic, orients us to understanding how each shapes the other, and how either may gain prominence during particular moments in development. Our understanding of perezhivanie suggests that mediation of grammatical errors, lexical choice and pragmatic violations has been one-sided, and should include the mediation of, for example, sharing behavior, frustration and feelings of competence. We end by suggesting several ideas for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)219-241
Number of pages23
JournalLanguage and Sociocultural Theory
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Linguistics and Language


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