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SLLAT Seminar: Muna, Alshehri, Diana Pili, and Simon Ruiz (LAEL, Lancaster)

Date: 29 August 2014 Time: 3.00 pm to 4.30pm

Venue: Bowland North SR14

This session consists of two talks and one poster presentation, all of which will be presented at EUROSLA 2014 in September.

Talk 1: Simon Ruiz and Patrick Rebuschat: Simultaneous acquisition of words and syntax under incidental and intentional learning conditions

The topic of implicit learning plays a central role in SLA research, and recent years have witnessed an increasing amount of research dedicated to this issue. However, comparatively little research has focused on the implicit learning of vocabulary and, to our knowledge, no study has examined whether syntax and vocabulary can be acquired simultaneously. This is an important question, given that in language acquisition outside of the experimental lab, subjects are exposed to (and learn) many linguistic features at the same time. This paper reports the results of an experiment that investigated the implicit learning of second language (L2) syntax and vocabulary by adult learners. The linguistic focus was on verb placement in simple and complex sentences (Rebuschat & Williams, 2012). The novel vocabulary items were ten pseudowords (e.g dobez, paylig, etc.), taken from Hamrick and Rebuschat (2013).

Thirty native speakers of English were exposed to an artificial language consisting of German syntax and English words, including ten pseudowords that followed English phonotactics. Subjects were assigned to one of two experimental conditions. Subjects in the incidental group (n = 15) did not know they were going to be tested, nor that they were supposed to learn the grammar or vocabulary of a novel language. The exposure task required subjects to judge the semantic plausibility of 120 different sentences, e.g. "Chris placed today the boxes on the dobez" (plausible) and "Sarah covered usually the fields with dobez" (implausible). Subjects were provided with a picture that matched the meaning of the pseudowords, in the examples above with a black-and-white drawing of a table underneath the sentence. Subjects were thus able to infer the meaning of the pseudowords (dobez, table). The task thus required subjects to process the sentences for meaning. Subjects in the intentional group (n = 15) read the same 120 sentences. However, these subjects were asked to read each sentence carefully and to (i) discover the word-order rules and (ii) memorize the meaning of the pseudowords. Subjects were told that they would be later tested on their knowledge of the rules and vocabulary. In the testing phase, all subjects completed two tests, a grammaticality judgment task to assess whether they had learned the novel syntax and a forced-choice task to assess their knowledge of the pseudowords. In both tasks, subjects were also asked to report how confident they were (guess, somewhat confident, very confident) and to indicate what the basis of their judgment was (guess, intuition, memory, rule). Performance on the grammaticality judgment task and on the 4AFC task was used to measure learning. Confidence ratings and source attributions were employed to determine whether exposure had resulted in implicit or explicit knowledge (see Rebuschat, 2013).

Data collection has recently concluded but data have not yet been fully analysed. Given our previous research (e.g. Rebuschat & Williams, 2012), we predict that subjects will be able to acquire both the syntax and the vocabulary of the artificial language simultaneously and that the amount of implicit and explicit knowledge will vary depending on the learning context, with subjects in the incidental group acquiring primarily implicit knowledge and also some explicit knowledge, and vice versa in the intentional group. The paper concludes with implications for future research.

Talk 2: Diana Pili: Access to explicit knowledge and disfluency phenomena in L2 oral production

In the SLA research of the last fifteen years the implicit/explicit distinction has acquired prominence as a central theoretical construct in relation to the definition of linguistic knowledge, types of instruction, learning processes, retrieval of linguistic information and corrective feedback (DeKeyser 2003, 2013, De Jong 2005, Ellis 2005, Ellis and Loewen 2007, Hulstijn 2005, Long 2007, Long et al. 2011). As a consequence of this trend, the discipline has witnessed an increased theoretical and methodological interest in identifying reliable test measures of implicit and explicit knowledge (Han and Ellis 1998, Ellis et al. 2009). Though the relationship between disfluency (self-correction, pauses) and monitoring phenomena has been established in the literature (Levelt 1983, Kormos 1999, 2000a, 2000b), the former has not received much attention as a potential indicator of access to explicit knowledge in the light of the implicit vs. explicit debate.

The aim of this study is to analyze the occurrence of disfluecy phenomena in oral production under two experimental conditions:

(1) a picture description task with no verbal cues;

(2) a picture description task similar to the task in condition (1), with added verbal cues.

The data was collected from 47 participants (37 Intermediate learners of Italian and 10 native speakers) and the linguistic target elicited was the oral production of sentences containing passato prossimo, a compound Italian past tense, an example of which is given in (3):

(3) Maria arrivata a Londra alle 2

[Maria is3ps arrivedfs in London at 2]

'Maria arrived in London at 2'

The following two phenomena were considered indicative of access to analyzed knowledge during online oral production:

(i) self-correction (whether targetlike or not)

(ii) pauses in the verbal phrase (between auxiliaries and past participles and in the past participle)

The research questions the study addresses are the following:

(a) How does the presence vs. absence of verbal cues correlate with the presence of different types of disfluency phenomena?

(b) Does analysis of access to explicit knowledge, in terms of monitoring, confirm previous findings indicating that tasks including an element of constrained response are a better measure of explicit knowledge than free production tasks?

Poster presentation: Muna Alshehri: Incidental Vocabulary Acquisition from Listening: The Case of Young Saudi EFL Learners

Incidental vocabulary learning from meaning-focused input has received increased attention in second language acquisition research (Nation, 2007). Most L2 studies have measured the incidental learning of vocabulary from written input (reading) but few have investigated the role of oral input (listening) in acquiring word knowledge, especially in the case of young EFL learners. Moreover, most previous listening studies have focused only on measuring one dimension of word knowledge, usually the form-meaning link, which does not provide a broad picture of the type or degree of word knowledge that could be learned as a result of treatment.

To help address this gap, the present study measured the short-term word retention of young Saudi EFL learners after listening to a story from the three dimensions of spoken form recognition, meaning recognition, and meaning recall. It also examined the separate and joint effects of frequency of exposure and +/- elaboration on the degree of word retention in addition to the possible moderating effects of a number of individual differences on word retention from listening, namely that of prior vocabulary knowledge, listening competence, and working memory capacity. Using a between-groups experimental design, 128 young Saudi EFL learners were divided into a control group and four comparison groups who differed as to (1) whether they listened to the story one or three times (single vs. multiple exposure), and (2) whether or not they received explanations of the target words during listening (+/- elaboration). Participants in the treatment groups listened to a simplified story that employed non-words as target words to control for prior knowledge. A short English definition was provided after the first occurrence of each target word in the (+elaboration) condition only. Post-tests in story comprehension and word retention were administered immediately after the final listening session for each group.

Results showed that words could be learned incidentally from listening. Frequency of exposure seemed to affect the acquisition of the phonological form while explanation of target words seemed to affect the recognition and recall of word meaning. Prior vocabulary and listening competence correlated more with story comprehension than with word retention while working memory correlated with acquisition of meaning. Pedagogical implications will be also discussed in the light of these and other findings of the study.

Event website: http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/fass/groups/sllat/programme.html

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Who can attend: Anyone

 

Further information

Organising departments and research centres: Linguistics and English Language, Second Language Learning and Teaching Research Group (SLLAT)

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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
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