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In the field of second language acquisition, the term interlanguage refers to a learner's variety that conforms neither fully to the rules of the target language (the language the learner is aiming to acquire) nor to the rules of the learner's native language.


This term is closely associated with Larry Selinker's theory of second language acquisition (e.g. Selinker 1972, 1992).


The term was coined by Selinker (1972) and picked up quickly by other researchers (e.g. Richards 1972, Schumann 1974).


approximative system, transitional competence, language learner language


  • Richards, Jack C. 1972. "Social factors, interlanguage, and language learning." Language Learning 22:159-188.
  • Schumann, John H. 1974. "The implications of interlanguage, pidginization and creolization for the study of adult second language acquisition." TESOL Quarterly 8:145-152.
  • Selinker, Larry. 1972. "Interlanguage." IRAL (International Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching) 10:209-231.
  • Selinker, Larry. 1992. Rediscovering interlanguage. London: Longman.