Call for Papers – Vol. 6. N. 2 (November 2022) - Special Issue on Processability approaches to second language instruction


Processability Theory (PT) is arguably the SLA theory with the most extensively researched and specified stages on the path of L2 learning, and not only English L2. PT aims to provide an explicit theoretical frame capable of generating falsifiable predictions as to what is learned when. It has been fruitfully applied to many other L2s such as Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Malaysian and Spanish, thus empirically dealing with a more comprehensive cross-linguistic range than most other SLA theories.
However, not all second language acquisition researchers agree that there are universal acquisition sequences (Ellis, 2020, p.10). Neither might they agree that SLA proceeds over largely predictable trajectories and predictable stages (see the recent debate in Language Learning, Hulstijn et al., 2015). In this debate, Pienemann (2015) made the essential point “that there has been a continuous focus on second language development in second language acquisition research for over 40 years and that there is clear empirical evidence for generalizable developmental patterns” (p. 123).
Yet, even researchers who recognize the importance of developmental routes and stages in SLA may not agree to use such information in the L2 syllabus. They may convincingly argue, nevertheless, that L2 instruction must take development into account (e.g., Ortega, 2009 p. 100). PT itself, given its focus on learnability, does not indicate any methodological preferences in terms of instruction. It merely limits itself to predicting universal routes and stages of acquisition. Instruction cannot alter the natural course of development.
Nevertheless, it can positively affect the rate of acquisition and ultimate attainment (Ortega,
ibid). In any case, several researchers have attempted to apply the specific developmental knowledge deriving from SLA and PT to the classroom reality, often in connection with the effects of formal instruction on the developmental path (Baten & Kessler, 2019, offer an extensive survey of such studies). Researchers have recently addressed and experimented with processability approaches to designing developmentally moderated instructional components.
They have often added the notion of Focus on Form (Long, 1991) to the design. Such experimentation has mainly occurred within task-based or communicative syllabi, and it has provided an avenue for using, in instruction, what is available from research. On the other hand, this work also offers empirical feedback to research from the classroom.

The current special issue of ISLA invites manuscripts that address the above or related questions that are either conceptually or empirically oriented. The key dates are as follows:
• March 31, 2021 Abstracts are due.
• April 30, 2021 Notification and feedback on abstracts.
• October 31, 2021 Full manuscripts for possible selection are due.

For inquiries, contact the special issue guest editors:
Bruno Di Biase, Western Sydney University, [email protected]
Satomi Kawaguchi, Western Sydney University, [email protected]
Yumiko Yamaguchi, Tokai University, [email protected]

Baten, K. & Kessler, J-U., (2019). Research timeline. The role of instruction: Teachability and processability. In R. Arntzen, G. Håkansson, A. Hjelde & J-U Kessler (eds.), Teachability and Learnability across Languages (pp. 9-26). John Benjamins.
Ellis, R. (2020). A short history of SLA: Where have we come from and where are we going? Language Teaching 1–16.
Hulstijn, J.A., Ellis, R. & Eskildsen, S.W. (2015) Orders and Sequences in the Acquisition of L2 Morphosyntax, 40 Years On: An Introduction to the Special Issue. Language Learning 65:1 pp. 1–5. DOI: 10.1111/lang.12097.
Long, M. H. (1991). Focus on form: A design feature in language teaching methodology. In K. de Bot, R. B. Ginsberg, & C. Kramsch (eds.), Foreign language research in cross-cultural perspective (pp. 39–52). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Ortega, L. (2009). Sequences and Processes in Language Learning. In M. H. Long & C.J. Doughty (Eds.), The Handbook of Language Teaching. Blackwell.
Pienemann, M. (2015). An Outline of Processability Theory and Its Relationship to Other Approaches to SLA. Language Learning 65:1, pp. 123–151. DOI: 10.1111/lang.12095.