Exploring Language Teachers’ Evolving Conceptualizations of Language Variation

Larry L. LaFond, Seran Dogancay-Aktuna


This paper examines conceptions that pre-service teachers of English bring to the term language variation, a crucial constellation of concepts in linguistics related to understanding the socioculturally variant nature of language. We review responses given to open-ended questions about language variation, focusing on statements made regarding this term at different points of professional development, looking particularly at how initial understanding of language variation evolves as a result of having multiple exposures to this linguistic concept across differing language courses. Survey questions related both to a definition language variation and to an assessment of the importance of this concept for the careers for which these respondents were preparing. Comparative content analyses of responses reveals that many pre-service teachers start their academic careers with differing preconceptions of language variation based on general use of the term. Though these pre-service teachers are sometimes reflective about aspects of variation, their early formulations are quite narrow in scope, often reflecting an incomplete or less sophisticated understanding of the term. Results suggest that, as these pre-service teachers extend their coursework, they also expand and refine their initial understanding of language variation, thereby gaining a discipline-specific and nuanced understanding of the term. Results also show broad appreciation for language variation, and development in the ability to articulate how awareness of variation might assist their teaching.


Language variation; Teacher education; TESOL; Awareness

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3968/n


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