Contrastive Analysis, Error Analysis, Markedness Theory, Universal Grammar and Monitor Theory and their Contributions to Second Language Learning

Mohamed Fathy Khalifa


Theories of second language acquisition (SLA) play an important role in second language (L2) learning. These theories can help both language teachers and their students to understand L2 language learning process. There are various theories and approaches of SLA which try to explain how L2 learning takes place. Each theory accounts for L2 acquisition from a different perspective. This paper describes and compares five theories of L2 acquisition: Contrastive Analysis (CA), Error Analysis (EA), Markedness Theory, Universal Grammar (UG) and Monitor Theory, explains their contributions to L2 learning and shows the criticism of each theory. First, in Contrastive Analysis, the weak and strong hypotheses and types of language transfer are explained. Second, in Error Analysis, attitudes towards errors and aims, process and models of Error Analysis are described. Third, in Markedness Theory, the role of typological markedness in the explanation of L2 learning, the Markedness Differential Hypothesis (MDH) and the Structural Conformity Hypothesis (SCH) are explained. Fourth, in Universal Grammar, it is shown that L2 acquisition occurs on the basis of first language (L1) acquisition: L2 acquisition is a matter of setting the correct L2 parameters. The Language Acquisition Device (LAD) and L2 access to UG are explained. Finally, in Monitor Theory, it is suggested that comprehensible input is crucial for L2 acquisition and the five hypotheses of the theory are explained: (a) The Input Hypothesis, (b) The Learning-Acquisition Hypothesis, (c) The Monitor Hypothesis, (d) The Natural Order Hypothesis and (e) The Affective Filter Hypothesis. 

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