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.
Ⅱ. Two Types of Reductionism in L2 Motivation Research
Ⅲ. Activity Theory and Its Application to L2 Motivation Theory
Ⅳ. Summary and Implications