Post-structuralist potentialities for studies of subjectivity and second language learning in early childhood

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The past two decades have seen a proliferation of studies investigating, complicating, and reimagining the relationship between second language learning and identity. Yet, with only a handful of exceptions, these studies are limited to adolescent and adult second language learners. In this article, the author proposes that identity research with very young second language learners has been limited both by a tendency to see early second language learning as less problematic than that of older learners and by the conceptualization of identity itself. The author argues that a post-structuralist perspective on identity—or, rather, subjectivity—opens possibilities for research with the youngest students. In order to explore this theoretical potential, the author examines four major studies of identity and young second language learners (kindergarten and Grade 1) to analyze how their authors conceive of identity and what each affords for analysis. These studies support the idea that a post-structural analysis, through its interrogation of the concept of identity, offers possibilities for studies of subjectivity in young children. Yet they also highlight a need to interrogate traditional views of language and of language learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)174-191
Number of pages18
JournalContemporary Issues in Early Childhood
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016


  • English language learners
  • identity
  • positioning
  • second language acquisition
  • subjectivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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