Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

World Languages

Major Professor

Amy S. Thompson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Camilla Vasquez, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Wei Zhu, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Nicole Tracy-Ventura, Ph.D.


ESL, L2 motivation, individual differences, affect, personality


Motivation is considered an important factor in initiating and sustaining the second language (L2) process. Since learning an L2 can be seen as a lengthy process, one that needs sustained motivation over a long period of time, learners need to be able to successfully deal with their and others’ emotions in order to generate and sustain their motivation for learning. The role of learners’ emotions and trait emotional self-efficacy, or trait emotional intelligence (EI), in L2 motivation and language learning has been a relatively unexplored area. To fill this gap, the current study posed three research questions that addressed the relationship between L2 motivation and trait EI, which is based on the trait EI theory (Petrides, 2001) and deals with emotion-related self-perceptions, such as emotion control, emotion expression, empathy, and emotion perception (Petrides, 2001). As Dörnyei (2009) proposed the L2 Motivational Self System (L2MSS) in response to the need to further develop the socio-educational model, the current study further tests the validation of a modified version of the L2MSS by investigating intermediate and advanced international English language learners from diverse backgrounds. Using a quantitative approach, this study examined (a) the relationship between the possible selves (the ideal/ought-to/anti-ought-to) and trait emotional intelligence, including the four broader factors: sociability, emotionality, well-being, self-control; and (b) to what extent can the four factors predict the three different selves, and (c) the relationship between L2 learning experience, possible selves, and trait EI. A total of 143 international ESL students enrolled in an English Language Program in the United States participated in the study. A possible selves questionnaire, L2 learning experience questionnaire, and trait emotional intelligence questionnaire (TEIQue SF) were administered. The underlying factors from the exploratory factor analysis performed on the possible selves questionnaire responses were ‘the ideal L2 self’, ‘the ought-to L2 self’, and ‘the anti-ought-to L2 self.’ The correlation analysis showed significant correlations between (a) trait EI and ideal/ought-to L2 self; (b) ideal L2 self and emotionality/sociability/well-being; (c) ought-to L2 self and emotionality/sociability/well-being; (d) anti-ought-to L2 self and emotionality; (e) L2 learning experience and trait EI; (f) the L2 learning experience and the ideal/anti-ought-to L2 self; (g) L2 learning experience and emotionality/sociability/well-being. A four predictor standard multiple regression model revealed that the trait EI sociability factor was the only significant predictor of the ideal L2 self. On the other hand, the trait EI emotionality factor was the only significant predictor of both the ought-to and anti-ought-to L2 selves. This study illustrates that there are important associations between L2 motivation and constructs of positive psychology, especially emotional intelligence, and that positive psychology might stimulate future L2 motivation research. Lastly, this study offers a number of implications for use of positive psychology in the SLA classroom.