Sociocultural theory and second language acquisition

James P. Lantolf, Tracy G. Beckett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Second language acquisition (SLA) research informed by sociocultural theory (henceforth, SCT) began in earnest with the publication of Frawley & Lantolf's (1985) article on L2 (second language) discourse (described in the timeline proper). Since then, well over 300 journal articles, book chapters and doctoral dissertations have appeared in the research literature. Although the term sociocultural is often applied to a wide array of approaches to research that seeks to understand what it means to be a human being, in the present timeline, we restrict its interpretation to refer to the specific theory of psychological development proposed by Vygotsky (1986). Other approaches that have appropriated the term, such as those emanating from the writings of Bakhtin (1981), while compatible in many respects with Vygotskian theory, have a different focus and are not strictly speaking psychological or psycholinguistic theories. To be sure, Vygotsky rarely used the term sociocultural, preferring instead cultural psychology or cultural-historical psychology to refer to his theory. Wertsch (1985) is generally credited with having coined the term sociocultural as a way of capturing the notion that human mental functioning results from participation in, and appropriation of, the forms of cultural mediation integrated into social activities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)459-475
Number of pages17
JournalLanguage Teaching
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


Dive into the research topics of 'Sociocultural theory and second language acquisition'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this