A critical understanding of second language acquisition from two sociolinguistic strands: The Variationist approach and the Investment Perspective





second language learning, sociolinguistic theory, variationist approach, investment perspective, identity


This review explores how sociolinguistics expands our understanding of second language acquisition (SLA) by drawing upon two typical sociolinguistic strands: the variationist approach and the investment perspective. Accordingly, two empirical studies are used to illustrate the contributions of each strand, with Han’s (2019) study adopting a variationist approach and Sung’s (2020) study taking an investment perspective. Through a critical analysis, this paper argues that both theoretical strands contribute to the “social turn” of SLA by providing different insights into the social shaping of second language (L2) knowledge and learning, as well as the interplay between identity construction and L2 learning. Implications, limitations, and suggestions for future studies are discussed at the end.


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Author Biography

Chang Liu, University of Cambridge

Chang Liu is a graduate of the University of Cambridge, where she studied MPhil Research in Second Language Education. Prior to her master’s studies, she completed a BA in Education Studies from the University College London. Currently, her research interest lies in language investment, informal language learning, digital literacies, and social inequalities.
Email: cl868@cantab.ac.uk


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How to Cite

Liu, C. (2023). A critical understanding of second language acquisition from two sociolinguistic strands: The Variationist approach and the Investment Perspective. Journal of Language Teaching, 3(3), 19–25. https://doi.org/10.54475/jlt.2023.006