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The study evaluated whether the direction (inhibitory or facilitative) of the phonological neighborhood density effect in English spoken word recognition was modulated by the relative strength of competitor activation (neighborhood type) in two groups of English-dominant learners of Spanish who differed in language experience. Classroom learners and heritage learners of Spanish identified spoken English words from dense (e.g., BEAR) and sparse (e.g., BOAT) phonological neighborhoods presented in moderate noise. The phonological neighborhood was separately manipulated at word onset (cohort) and word offset (rhyme). Classroom learners were overall slower in recognizing spoken words from denser neighborhoods. Strongly active (onset) neighbors exerted inhibitory effects in both classroom and heritage learners. Critically, weakly active (offset) neighbors exerted inhibitory effects in classroom learners but facilitative effects in heritage learners. The results suggest that the activation of both within and cross-language neighbors should be considered in determining the direction of neighbor effects in bilingual lexical processing.
The present study uses self-paced reading as a measure of online processing and an acceptability judgement task as a measure of offline explicit linguistic knowledge, to understand L2 learners’ comprehension processes and their awareness of subtle differences between the modal auxiliaries may and can. Participants were two groups of university students: 42 native speakers of English and 41 native speakers of Croatian majoring in L2 English. The study is part of a larger project that has provided empirical evidence of the two modals, may and can, being mutually exclusive when denoting ability (can) and epistemic possibility (may) but equally acceptable in pragmatic choices expressing permission. The present results revealed that L1 and L2 speakers rated the acceptability of sentences in offline tasks similarly; however, L2 learners showed no sensitivity to verb–context mismatches in epistemic modality while demonstrating sensitivity when processing modals expressing ability. Implications for L2 acquisition of modals and future research are discussed.
There has been increasing interest in the effects of note taking in second language (L2) research. However, no meta-analysis has been conducted to examine the relationship between note taking and learning through exposure to L2 input. We retrieved 28 effect sizes from 21 studies (N = 1992) to explore the overall effects of note taking as well as to examine the extent to which the effectiveness of note taking is likely to vary as a function of a set of potential moderators (i.e., learner variables, treatment variables, note-taking features, learning target, and measurement type). Results revealed that note taking had a small to medium positive overall effect on learning through exposure to L2 input (g = 0.56, 95% CI: 0.24–0.88). Subsequent moderator analyses revealed that variability in the size of note-taking effects across studies was explained by learner variables (context, region, orthographic scripts, institutional level), treatment variables (mode of input, material type), note-taking features (note-taking behavior, number of note-taking sessions, provision and type of note-taking strategy instruction, total length of instruction, opportunity to review notes), learning target, and measurement type. Based on the obtained findings, teachers are recommended to incorporate note taking in L2 classrooms. Pedagogical suggestions and directions for future research are also provided.
Despite the widespread use and effectiveness of the Modern Language Aptitude Test (MLAT) composite score in predicting individual differences in L2 achievement and proficiency, there has been little examination of MLAT subtests, although they have potential for illuminating components of L2 aptitude and the mechanism of prediction. Here we use regression commonality analysis to decompose the predictive variance from the MLAT into unique components for each subtest alone and for each possible combination of subtests (duos, trios, etc.) that may have shared variance. The results, from a longitudinal study of 307 U.S. secondary students during 2 years of Spanish learning, provide strong evidence for the role of literacy-related skills in all subtests and in predicting all L2 outcomes. These and other results support a view of L1 literacy and language skills leading to metalinguistic development, which in turn leads to stronger L2 aptitude and achievement.
This meta-analysis synthesized 35 English studies (130 effect sizes, N = 1,981) that employed online tasks to investigate the processing of multiword sequences (MWSs). We examined (a) to what extent MWSs enjoy a processing advantage over novel word combinations; (b) how such a processing advantage is moderated by statistical regularities (i.e., phrasal frequency, association strength), MWS type, and explicitness of experimental tasks; and (c) whether such moderating patterns differ between L1 speakers and L2 speakers. The results confirmed the processing advantage for most subtypes of MWSs, with effect sizes ranging from small to medium. For L1 speakers and L2 speakers, the processing advantage of MWSs was found across the continuum of phrasal frequency and association strength and varied. Interestingly, task explicitness moderated the processing advantage of MWSs but only for L2 speakers. Taken together, our results shed light on the understanding of MWSs as well as directions for future research.
Concerns have recently been raised about the validity of scales used in the L2 motivational self system tradition, particularly in relation to sufficient discriminant validity among some of its scales. These concerns highlight the need to systematically examine the validity of scales used in this tradition. In this study, we therefore compiled a list of 18 scales in widespread use and administered them to Korean learners of English (N = 384). Testing the factorial structure of these scales using multiple exploratory and confirmatory factor-analytic criteria revealed severe discriminant validity issues. For example, the ideal L2 self was not discriminant from linguistic self-confidence, suggesting that participant responses to such ideal L2 self items is not driven by actual–ideal discrepancies as previously presumed but more likely by self-efficacy beliefs. We discuss these results in the context of the need to encourage systematic psychometric validation research in the language motivation field.
Usage-based theories hold that mental representation of language is shaped by a lifetime of usage. Both input to which first language (L1) and second language (L2) users are exposed and their own language production affect their construction learning and entrenchment. The present study investigates L2 users’ knowledge of two introductory-it variants, Adj-that (e.g., it is clear that …) and Adj-to (e.g., it is difficult to …). We probed the extent to which adjective–variant associations in an academic section of COCA and L2 users’ engagement with academic writing affected learners’ generation of adjectives distinctively attracted to the two variants. An analysis of cue-outcome contingency was conducted to establish adjective–variant associations, and an elicitation task was carried out, probing L2 users’ ability to generate adjectives when prompted with the variants (e.g., it is [blank] to). The participants were 84 graduate students in the United States, 44 from L1 English and 40 from L1 Thai backgrounds. The results indicated that the adjective–variant associations predicted L2 users’ generation of adjectives. However, academic writing engagement did not affect learners’ performance. The findings suggest that statistical information in the input affects L2 users’ constructional representation.
We present a learner corpus-based study of English article use (“a”/“the”/Ø) by L2 learners with four typologically distinct first languages (L1s): German and Brazilian Portuguese (both have articles), Chinese and Russian (no articles). We investigate several semantic and morphosyntactic factors—for example, specificity, prenominal modification that can affect article use. Our analysis of 660 written scripts from the Education First Cambridge Open Database confirms the lower overall accuracy of learners with no-article L1s. Our main finding is the differential effect of specificity on definite and indefinite articles: learners tend to associate specificity with “a,” which implies article omission with nonspecific indefinite singulars and overuse of “a” with specific indefinite mass nouns. Prenominal modifiers further contribute to perceived specificity, leading to article overuse with modified indefinite mass nouns. However, in definite contexts, prenominal modifiers are associated with increased article omission.
The present study revisits the differential roles of form, meaning, and use aspects of phonological vocabulary knowledge in L2 listening proficiency. A total of 126 Japanese English-as-a-foreign-language listeners completed the TOEIC Listening test, working memory and auditory processing tests, the Metacognitive Awareness Listening Questionnaire, and several tasks designed to tap into three broad aspects of phonological vocabulary knowledge: (1) the ability to access phonological forms without any orthographic cues (phonologization), (2) the ability to recognize words regardless of the talker (generalization), and (3) the ability to determine the semantic and collocational appropriateness of words in global contexts in a fast and stable manner (automatization). Whereas the perceptual, cognitive, and metacognitive variables made relatively small contributions to L2 listening proficiency (0.4%–21.3%), the vocabulary factors explained a large amount of the variance (77.6%) in the full regression model (R2 = .507). These large lexical effects uniquely derived from the three different aspects of phonological vocabulary knowledge—automatization (55.3%), phonologization (20.8%), and generalization (1.5%). The findings suggest that successful L2 listening skill acquisition draws on not only various levels of phonological form-meaning mapping (phonologization, generalization) but also the spontaneous and robust retrieval of such vocabulary knowledge in relation to surrounding words (automatization).
To test the contributions of processing to L2 syntax learning, this study explores (cross-) linguistic and cognitive predictors of sentence reanalysis in the L2 comprehension of relative clauses among low-intermediate L1 German adolescent learners of L2 English. Specifically, we test the degree to which L2 comprehension is affected by L2 proficiency, reanalysis ability in a related, earlier-acquired L2 structure (questions), reanalysis ability of relative clauses in the L1, cognitive control, and cognitive capacity. In visual-world eye-tracking experiments, 141 adolescent German-speaking L2 learners of English selected target pictures for auditorily presented questions and relative clauses in the L1 and in the L2. The results showed a strong subject preference for L2 relative clauses. Learners’ L2 proficiency and their processing of object questions in the L2 predicted reanalysis for object relatives in eye movements, reaction times, and comprehension accuracy. In contrast, there was no evidence that cognitive control or working memory systematically affected the processing of object relatives. These findings suggest that linguistic processing outweighs cognitive processing in accounting for individual differences in low-intermediate L2 acquisition of complex grammar. Specifically, learners recruit shared processing mechanisms and routines across grammatical structures to pave a way in the acquisition of syntax.
This study examined how linguistic complexity features contribute to second language (L2) processing effort by analyzing the Dutch English-L2 learners’ eye movements from GECO and MECO, two eye-tracking corpora. Processing effort was operationalized as reading rate, mean fixation duration, regression rate, skipping rate, and mean saccade amplitude. In Study 1, the lexical, syntactic, and discoursal indices in 272 snippets of a novel in GECO were regressed against these eye-movement measures. The results showed that the one-component partial least square regression (PLS-R) models could explain 11%–37% of the variance in these eye-movement measures and outperformed eight readability formulas (six traditional and two recent cognitively inspired formulas based on the readers’ perception on text difficulty) in predicting L2 processing effort. In Study 2, the eye-tracking data from MECO were used to evaluate whether the findings from Study 1 could be applied more broadly. The results revealed that although the predictability of these PLS-R components decreased, they still performed better than the readability formulas. These findings suggest that the linguistic indices identified can be used to predict L2 text processing effort and provide useful implications for developing systems to assess text difficulty for L2 learners.
This study presents a reanalysis of existing data to investigate whether a relationship between perception and production abilities regarding a challenging second-language (L2) phonological contrast is observable (a) when both modalities must rely on accessing stored lexical representations and (b) when there is an asymmetry in task focus between perception and production. In the original studies, German learners of English were tested on their mastery of the English /ɛ/-/æ/ contrast in an auditory lexical decision task with phonological substitutions, a word-reading task, and a segmentally focused imitation task. Results showed that accurate nonword rejection in the lexical decision task was predicted by the Euclidean distance between the two vowels in word reading but not in imitation. These results extend previous findings to lexical perception and production, highlight the influence of task focus on the degree of coupling between the two modalities, and may have important implications for pronunciation training methods.
The present study investigates bilinguals’ capacity to rapidly establish memory traces for novel word forms in a second language (L2), as a function of L2 linguistic proficiency. A group of Chinese-English bilinguals with various English proficiency levels were presented with a reading-aloud task, consisting of 16 pseudowords and 16 English words repeatedly presented across six training exposures. Behavioral and neurophysiological data were collected, and modulations in the word-length effect across repetitions were measured as an index of transition from sublexical to lexical involvement. Results revealed that higher L2 proficiency was associated with decreased word-length effect on novel words, reflected in both naming latencies and early N1 and P200 brain responses. In contrast, lower proficiency learners appeared to engage in effortful letter-to-sound decoding processes, with higher attentional allocation to the letter sequence and greater use of sublexical processing across exposures. Our findings highlight the need to tackle specific grapheme-to-phoneme skills for efficient learning of L2, particularly in populations where the L1 is nonalphabetic.
Although lexical diversity is often used as a measure of productive proficiency (e.g., as an aspect of lexical complexity) in SLA studies involving oral tasks, relatively little research has been conducted to support the reliability and/or validity of these indices in spoken contexts. Furthermore, SLA researchers commonly use indices of lexical diversity such as Root TTR (Guiraud’s index) and D (vocd-D and HD-D) that have been preliminarily shown to lack reliability in spoken L2 contexts and/or have been consistently shown to lack reliability in written L2 contexts. In this study, we empirically evaluate lexical diversity indices with respect to two aspects of reliability (text-length independence and across-task stability) and one aspect of validity (relationship with proficiency scores). The results indicated that neither Root TTR nor D is reliable across different text lengths. However, support for the reliability and validity of optimized versions of MATTR and MTLD was found.
Second language (L2) research on input manipulation has focused mainly on increasing the salience of target structures, but presentation formats of L2 input can be another important aspect for manipulation. This study compared the horizontal, vertical, and adjacent formats for presenting the characters, pinyin, and English meaning of L2 Chinese vocabulary, by recruiting 69 English native speakers to study 30 Chinese words in these formats. Learning outcomes were indexed with vocabulary gain scores from pretest to posttest. Learner perceptions of the learning process were recorded with ratings and reasons for preference among these formats. The quantitative results showed the adjacent format generally led to higher gain scores than the other two formats and that L2 proficiency also contributed positively. To learners, the adjacent format was the least preferred, but preference ratings were not associated with gain scores. The qualitative findings suggested format familiarity and layout features as main factors of learner preference.
Research has indicated that lexical richness is an important indicator of second language (L2) proficiency. However, most research has examined written, cross-sectional English L2 corpora and does not necessarily indicate how spoken lexical use develops over time or whether observed trends are stable across L2s. This study adds to previous research on the development of spoken vocabulary by investigating lexical features of L2 Spanish learners over a 21-month period, using the LANGSNAP corpus. Multiple lexical richness indices used in previous studies were examined including lexical diversity, word frequency, word concreteness, and bigram strength of association. Linear mixed-effects models were run to examine changes over time. The results suggest that although some features of lexical richness (e.g., word frequency) see meaningful change over time, others (e.g., bigram T score) may not be indicative of L2 oral development.
Meta-analyses play an instrumental role in informing second language (L2) theory and practice. However, current (i.e., classic) approaches to meta-analysis are limited in their ability to do so because they often fail to capture the complexity inherent in primary studies’ research designs. As we argue in this article, when complex L2 studies are represented by simplistic meta-analyses, the latter cannot reach its potential to contribute to the development of cumulative knowledge. To mitigate this issue, we first discuss the fundamental problems of the classic approaches to meta-analysis of complex L2 research. Second, we introduce an alternative meta-analytic framework that will address those problems. Third, we apply the meta-analytic framework discussed to a complex L2 domain. Fourth, we offer free software to facilitate the conduct of the alternative meta-analytic approach described. Finally, we discuss the implications of this alternative framework for making evidence-based recommendations to the relevant stakeholders.
The congruency effect—that is, faster and more accurate processing of congruent multiword units, has been demonstrated in multiple studies. It is still unclear, however, what its underlying mechanism is, and how congruency may interact with other factors. Using an acceptability judgement task, this study examined the congruency effect in immersive (Experiment 1) and nonimmersive (Experiment 2) L2 learners’ collocational processing while taking into account L2 collocation frequency, immersive learners’ L2 use, their length and starting age of immersion, nonimmersive learners’ length of instruction, and their L2 proficiency. The study also tested whether L1 counterparts of words in L2 collocations were activated. Nonmmersive learners showed a congruency effect in both processing speed and accuracy. In contrast, immersive learners were affected by congruency only in processing accuracy. Higher L2 collocation frequency, greater length of instruction, and higher L2 proficiency did not reduce the congruency effect, whereas longer duration of immersion improved the processing of incongruent items. An effect of L1 lexical frequency was found, an indication of L1 activation. Results were discussed in light of how L2 proficiency and experiences changed the amount of L1 influence in L2 collocational processing.