Poststructuralist Perspectives on Language and Identity: Implications for English Language Teaching Research in Pakistan
Before the 1990s, Second Language Acquisition (SLA) research conceptualized language as a system or structure that the language learner acquired and developed, mediated by the learner's motivation and his/her strategies learning a language. With “the social turn” in social sciences, the language came to be viewed from a social constructionist perspective as a socially situated practice influenced by various social, cultural, class, gender, and ethnic factors. This shift towards the social aspects of language learning marks the change from a psycholinguistic and structuralist theory of language to a poststructuralist one. This paper reviews the development of poststructuralist research foci in language and identity studies in applied linguistics. The paper argues that broadening SLA research purview is useful, for example, in illuminating how social class mediates access to learning powerful languages like English and how indigenous languages suffer shrinking of use domains due to the hegemony of powerful languages. The paper attempts to tease out the implication of this research body for English language learning research in Pakistan's multilingual context. It concludes with a few suggestions for more socially-oriented language learning research in Pakistan.