The Comparative Fallacy in Studies on Corrective Feedback

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Mikiko Suzuki


The concept of the comparative fallacy was introduced by Bley-Vroman (1983) in reference to interlanguage studies whose analytical concepts seemed to hinder the investigation of the nature of learners’ languages. To exemplify the comparative fallacy, he introduced the interlanguage study conducted by Tarone, Frauenfelder, and Selinker (hereafter TFS) (1976) and discussed the validity of what they attempted to measure – interlanguage systematicity and variability. In his discussion, Bley-Vroman criticized the attempt by TFS to reveal the systematicity of learners’ interlanguage from several angles. As a major criticism, Bley-Vroman pointed out that TFS’s measurement of learners’ systematic use of linguistic features was based only on obligatory or non-obligatory contexts from the perspective of native speakers of the learners’ L2. Bley-Vroman argued that interlanguage research must focus on the construction of a linguistic description of learners’ languages in their own right. In relation to this claim, Cook (1999) argued that second language teaching should be tailored to L2 learners’ actual needs with the L2, which would consequently deny the idea of having native speakers of the L2 serve as role models in teaching. 

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