IntroductionConventionally,the study of SLA has centered on learners’ use of speech for social or publicpurposes (as in writing for an audience or taking part in conversation).Recently, however, a growing number of scholars have begun to identify theprominence of speech that L2 learners address to themselves, rather than toothers. Speech that is self-directed and intended for regulating oneself isknown as private speech.Researchinto private speech has been significantly influenced by Vygotsky’s (1986)theories of cognitive advancement. Mainly attractive has been his famoussuggestion that children develop speech through a process of internalizationthat contains a progression from social speech to inner speech, with anintermediate stage he called egocentric speech. At this phase, speech ceases tobe exclusively social and takes on a psychological dimension. Speech begins toserve the intellect and help the child in problem-solving, imaginary play,controlling behavior, and other cognitive procedures. A preschool child,working alone and trying to solve an animal home matching task, for example,mumbles these words to guide his actions all the way through the task: “put abear inside the cage .
. . no, no, put a kitty inside a cage and . . .
put abear . . . in the nest” (Patrick & Abravanel, 2000, p.
57). Egocentric speechis vocalized and can be heard by others (or captured by a tape recorder), butit is self-directed. Egocentric speech does not stay external, nonetheless. Atsome point, Vygotsky postulated, it goes inward as silent inner speech.
Becauseof its prominence in mental and linguistic improvement, the stage of egocentricspeech—more frequently referred to as private speech in existing literature—hascreated great interest as a central window into language learning and use, bothfrom a first language (L1) and an L2 standpoint.InL2 acquisition, private speech has been examined mainly from two perspectives:(1) as an indication of language learning in process, and (2) as aself-regulatory means of getting control over mental tasks. Both perspectiveshave revealed extensive use of private speech among L2 learners of all ages,language backgrounds, and proficiency levels. Some studies have beenpurposefully set up to elicit private speech (McCafferty, 1992); other studieshave given proof of incidental private speech among L2 learners (see, forexample, Saville-Troike (2006)).
A large number of studies have celebratedvocalized (oral) private speech as it happens in solitary or multipartydiscourse; some research has looked into private speech as it is revealed inwriting and gesture. Roebuck (2000), for instance, found private speechfeatures—such as lexical word searches—in the written protocols of collegelearners of Spanish, whereas Negueruela (2004) noticed semantic featuresassociated with L1 thinking in some of the gestures of advanced ESL learners.Private speech among L2 learners has been described in the literature as takingplace both spontaneously in natural classroom contexts (e.g., Ohta, 2001) andin experimental settings deliberately shaped for research purposes (e.g.,Centeno-Cortés & Jiménez, 2004).