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Reductionism, activity theory, and L2 motivation research: Toward new concepts and definitions
The SNU Journal of Education Research (2010)
  • Tae-Young Kim, Dr., Chung-Ang University

This paper focuses on the theoretical foundation of second language (L2) learning motivation from a Vygotskian Activity Theory (AT) perspective. In general, previous L2 motivation research adopted either psychometric or sociological approaches, which have not fully considered the mediational process between individual learners and their meaningful environments. Since L2 motivation reflects learners’ histories and sociocultural contexts, it is crucial to approach this from an AT perspective. After critiquing current L2 motivation research using Valsiner and van der Veer’s (2000) argument of downward/upward reductionism, I introduce the notion of L2 motivation as social mediation and discuss the applicability of AT to motivation research. L2 learning motivation is defined as an L2 learner’s realization of the personal significance of an L2–related activity. It is argued that a learner’s L2 learning motive can be transformed into motivation when the learner’s initial motive to learn an L2 integrates with specific goal(s) and physical or imaginary participation.

  • second language motivation,
  • activity theory,
  • sociocultural theory,
  • motive,
  • demotivation,
  • goal,
  • participation
Publication Date
Citation Information
Tae-Young Kim. "Reductionism, activity theory, and L2 motivation research: Toward new concepts and definitions" The SNU Journal of Education Research Vol. 19 (2010)
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