Absence of morphological transfer in beginners: Evidence from eye tracking

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During the past decade, literature on cognitive approaches to second language acquisition (SLA) and bilingualism has flourished spectacularly (see Grosjean and Lee 2013; Herschensohn and Young-Scholten 2013a for recent overviews). Not only are second language (L2) researchers applying psycholinguistic theories to SLA, but they are also using experimental techniques historically associated with psychology such as eye tracking to better understand how humans process languages. Most psycholinguistic studies investigating L2 processing of morphology and syntax in adult populations have focused on intermediate, advanced, and near-native learners (see, e.g., Jegerski 2010 for an overview of near-native studies). The few studies examining morphological processing in beginners focus on the first hours of exposure (Rast 2008), or the cognitive and neural mechanisms guiding artificial language learning (e.g., DeKeyser 1997; de Graaff 1997; DeDiego-Balaguer, Fuentemilla and Rodríguez-Fornells 2011). This neglect of novice learners is particularly evident in studies on morphological processing of natural languages on account of adults' persistent difficulty in processing inflectional markers (e.g., Hopp 2013; Slabakova 2008; VanPatten, Keating and Leeser 2012). In effect, the few online morphological studies that include adult beginners show that they lack sensitivity to morphosyntactic agreement violations (see Sagarra and Herschensohn 2013 for a review). However, interestingly, it is also found that sensitivity increases not only with higher proficiency but also with higher working memory span (e.g., Sagarra 2008; Sagarra and Herschensohn 2013), less complex linguistic systems (e.g., Ellis and Sagarra 2011), and cognitively easier structures (e.g., Han and Liu 2013).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationFirst Exposure to a Second Language
Subtitle of host publicationLearners' Initial Input Processing
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages32
ISBN (Electronic)9781139084390
ISBN (Print)9781107017610
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)


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