Ortega, Lourdes, and Joan Carson. “Multicompetence, Social Context, and L2 Writing Research Praxis.” Practicing Theory in Second Language Writing. Eds. Matsuda, Paul Kei and Tony Silva. West Lafayette, IN: Parlor Press, 2010. Print.

  • O/C begin by noting that theory motivates empirical research and is often the result of empirical research. . . the theory-data circle is iterative (48).  If this is the case, O/C claim that “the congruence between theoretical insights and research praxis is a prerequisite for generating useful disciplinary knowledge” (48).  So, shouldn’t we “practice” our theories in the context of research programs that we pursue?
  • Goal of chapter:  Are research practices that exist at the interface between second language writing (L2) and second language acquisition (SLA) reflective/congruent with the “cutting-edge” theoretical orientations of the current research community? (48)  The authors claim that there is not and that there is a “misalignment” between the theory and the research.  They identify four areas where theory and empirical research might be brought more closely together in L2 and SLA.
  • Research questions:  How does linguistic expertise in an L2 hinder the L2 composing abilities?; and 2) how does L2 writing aid in second language development?  This work is primarily cognitive and ignores some of the social context in which a writer exists.  To combat this, the authors recommend that practice goes beyond text and individual writer to recognize contemporary theoretical insights and to expand the scope of inquiry.  As they note, “the social must be researched, not as externally documented experience or fixed environmental encounters, but as experience that is lived, made sense of, negotiated, contested, ad claimed by learners in their physical, inter-personal, social, cultural, and historical contexts” (51).
  • Bilingual turn in applied linguistics:  AL research could no longer stand on the native speaker as model/norm and monolingualism is not the starting point of inquiry (50).  Further, work at the intersections of L2 writing and SLA have also – for the most part – ignored the social context of the research as affective (51).  Said succinctly using Ivanic’s words:

  • Four strategies for bringing L2 research into the situated social contexts that surround it[1. these recommendations might be particularly important as you move forward with the book chapter proposal. . . . assuming it gets accepted!]:

  • A key idea in this article is that research studies that position L1 vs. L2 writers are privileging one particular point-of-view:  that of the “norm” or L1 writer.  So, native/non-native comparisons are a problem.  A solution would be to investigate L2 writers as a “within-writer phenomenon” (treat them as multicompetent folks in order to analyze their writing in two or more languages (the same writer) (53).
  • Multicompetent writers use the discursive resources from their entire language knowledge to compose in any particular language; as such, what actually dictates what Kaplan called the contrastive rhetorics are really just rhetorics – contingent, audience oriented/motivated, and constructed through each discursive interaction through a complex interaction with the social, lived experience of the rhetor (55-6).
  • The authors make a wonderful point about coders:  get coders who are also multilingual and inhabit the same ecologies as the research subjects.  They note, “It is rather uninformative to study raters and their judgments as if they stemmed exclusively from a context-free, fixed, and dichotomous status as native or nonnative speakers of the target language” (61).
  • The authors hope that revising the research on SLA and L2 writing will help move the disciplines toward recognizing the strengths (not deficiencies) of L2 writers at the same time that it will lead to an enhanced cross-cultural dialogue among L2 writing researchers and L2 researchers working in “foreign and heritage language education” (65).

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