Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2013

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Second Language Acquisition

First Advisor

Hatasa, Yukiko A.

Second Advisor

Liskin-Gasparro, Judith E.

First Committee Member

Otto, Sue

Second Committee Member

Severino, Carol

Third Committee Member

Sunstein, Bonnie S.


This study is a qualitative examination of second language (L2) learning processes by four advanced learners of Japanese in the community of a summer intensive full-immersion program in the United States. Using L2 socialization theory as a theoretical framework, this study conceives of L2 learning as a process of social participation in a community of practice and examines L2 learning processes by four learners, focusing on the dynamic interplay between the affordances of the social community and the agency of the individual learners. The purpose of this study is twofold: (a) It investigates the ways in which the four learners exercise their agency to pursue their goals of learning Japanese and (b) it documents how the different ways in which the four learners exercise agency form different trajectories of learning and create different experiences of L2 socialization.

This study has adopted an ethnographic case study approach to the investigation of research inquiries. Through the analyses of data obtained from multiple sources, including interviews with the four learners, observations of their engagement in the community of practice of the summer intensive full-immersion program, their audio-recorded conversations with other members of the community, and various artifacts, this study explores the role of L2 learner agency in the process of L2 socialization and describes in depth their experiences of learning Japanese from their emic perspectives.

The case studies of the four learners have highlighted the different ways in which they engaged in the community of practice, understood their tasks of learning Japanese, interpreted the affordances of the social community, negotiated the meaning of their participations, defined and redefined their sense of self, and eventually achieved their L2 learning goals.

The findings suggest that the richness and effectiveness of a social environment are not characterized by the physical and academic affordances of a social community alone; rather they are constructed in a dynamic relation between the affordance structure of a social community and the L2 learners' agency in the pursuit of the joint enterprise of making L2 learning happen.

With regard to the role of L2 learner agency, the study has foregrounded the important role of the aspirations of the four L2 learners for personal transformation and negotiation of the meaning of self of the past, the present, and the future. The findings suggest that L2 learners' diverse and complex social and personal desires for learning an L2 may not be able to be explained using the notion of investment (Norton, 1995, 2000) alone.

Since the SLA debate initiated by Firth and Wagner (1997, 2007), SLA research has begun to reconceptualize L2 learners as socially situated beings with diverse needs, wants, and identities. This study presents four portraits of L2 learners who engaged in the enterprise of learning Japanese, as a means of contributing to this reconceptualization, and explores for these four learners what it meant to learn Japanese in the summer of 2010.


Agency, Community of practice, Ethnographic case study, Identity, Japanese, Second language learning


xv, 325 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 318-325).


Copyright 2013 Chie Muramatsu