Attending to grammar in a second
language:
Evidence from classroom
experiments and priming
techniques
Emma Marsden
University of York
[email protected]
Overview
• Input processing in L2 learning
• In the L2 classroom: Processing
Instruction
• Part 1: A classroom experiment to
investigate the effects of PI
• Part 2: A laboratory study to investigate
whether attentional orientation affects
what learners process from the input
Claims about input processing
• To learn a form, you must ‘detect’ it in the input you
hear and read i.e. connect the form to a meaning or
function
• BUT L2 learners don’t always do this reliably
VanPatten suggests learners:
process content words in the input before anything else
e.g. Il a mangé au restaurant
(The Primacy of Content Words Principle)
will tend to rely on lexical items as opposed to grammatical
form to get meaning when both encode the same
semantic information. e.g. Hier, il a mangé au
restaurant
(The Lexical Preference Principle)
‘Communicative redundancy’
• A language feature (could be phonological,
morphological, syntactic, even paralinguistic feature)
which is not the only way used to communicate a
specific ‘meaning’
• VanPatten claims learners are less likely to try to get any
meaning from redundant forms
• And therefore less likely to learn them
• Instead, he claims learners get the same meaning from
‘lexical items’
• This hypothesis assumes that the systems involved with
processing input (working memory, selective attention)
have a limited capacity
Also relevant: Attentional blocking
theory
• Nick Ellis’s “Attentional Blocking” theory
– Ellis (2008), Ellis & Sagarra (a & b in press).
• Reliance on cues learnt late in L1 acquisition,
leads to lack of attention to particular cues in L2
acquisition
• E.g. As infants we learn temporal cognition after
verb morphology – we use “talked” reliably and
accurately before “yesterday”
• As L2 learners, this blocks our attention to
inflectional cues
• Other variables too: salience, WM constrains longer distance
dependencies in L1 learning, different learning mechanisms
in L1 and L2 (phonological sensitivities, implicit)
Evidence that communicative
redundancy affects SLA
•
•
•
•
•
Production data
Eye-tracking data (Bernhardt, 1987)
Reading comprehension data (Jiang, 2004)
Think aloud data (VanPatten 1996, & 2002 for review)
Learners match subjects and verbs according
to likely semantics rather than morphosyntax:
1)
Victoria Beckham
2)
Nous
(We)
a) chantons et dansons
(sing+1st pl. and dance+1st pl.)
b) étudie l’anglais
(study+sing. English)
(Marsden, 2006)
Can we train learners to process
the input better? Can we train
them to overcome
communicative redundancy?
What is Processing Instruction?
•
Learners engaged in input activities (listening &
reading) only
•
Based on principle that learners ‘use’ lexical items
more than bound inflections when processing input –
and that this can be altered by manipulating the input
•
PI has been researched for many target features
(morphosyntax, e.g. subjunctive, clitic object pronouns),
mainly Romance languages and English.
Three components of Processing
Instruction
1) Explicit information (1 minute basic explanation; NOT used in this
study)
When we talk about something that happened in the past, we add ‘ed’
to the end of the verb
Remember to notice that; not words like “yesterday”.
2) Referential activities
When did this happen?
1)
2)
I walked to town
I wash the car
Last week / Usually
Last week / Usually
No other cues given
3) Affective activities
Do you think your teacher is telling the truth?
1.
2.
I talked to the Queen
I marked some homework
True / False
True / False
Example of referential activity
Some of Delia’s diary entries have got
smudged. Decide whether Delia has
written about an event that happened in
her previous summer holidays or if she is
referring to something she usually does in
the summer holidays.
1. I learn Spanish.
a. last summer
b. usually does
2. My family visited Paris.
a. last summer
b. usually does
3. I play tennis with my friends.
a. last summer
b. usually does
Example of affective activity
Delia has written a diary entry about her
family’s last summer holidays. What do
you think about her activities?
1. My family visited Paris.
a. interesting b. boring
2. I learned Japanese.
a. interesting b. boring
3. My family painted the wall.
a. interesting b. boring
PI research to date (1)
The cause of PI‘s effectiveness is the
Structured Input Activities = referential
+ affective activities
i.e. explicit information provided does not
seem to affect results.
Problem 1: Studies so far have treated
referential and affective activities as
ONE (“structured input”)
BUT they are very different
Research to date (2)
• PI leads to learning gains
• Compared to ‘rule & output practice’ (traditional grammar
teaching)
• Similar gains to meaning-based output practice (PI useful
because oral and written production gains even though they
don’t practice this! Time efficient!)
• Better than input flood style activities with explicit information
(Marsden 2006)
• On ‘controlled’ measures
• written production, word level oral production, listening and reading
tests.
• Problem 2: These measures do not show any evidence
of language competence / implicit knowledge.
The roles of structured input
activities in Processing
Instruction, and the kinds of
knowledge they promote
Emma Marsden ([email protected])
Hsin-Ying Chen ([email protected])
What is role of affective activities?
Claimed: affective activities “reinforce formmeaning connections” made during
referential activities (VanPatten
1996,2004, Wong 2004, p.44)
– affective activities contribute to learning gains
Or…
Or…
• Perhaps the affective activities don’t
contribute to grammar learning in
instructed SLA
• Perhaps only referential activities lead to
learning gains
– Perhaps the affective activities do something
else e.g. improve vocabulary, or fluency?
(not presented today…)
Problem 2
• Claim: PI alters “implicit knowledge” and “underlying
competence”
• Or…is the knowledge gained explicit?
“Even though learners in [the PI] group were never given the rules,
they were constantly given yes/no feedback, which must have
led them to figure out the system” (DeKeyser et al. 2002 p. 813).
• Why bother to find out what kind of knowledge PI leads
to?
– Implicit thought to be less prone to corruption over time, and less
context- and task-sensitive, so possibly more useful knowledge
than explicit.
– But explicit knowledge probably leads to quicker learning (useful
in time-limited classroom foreign language learning!)
Research questions
1. Do affective activities, either alone or
following referential activities, have any
impact on learning the -ed past tense
inflection?
2. Does any learning observed tend to have
characteristics of explicit or implicit
knowledge at test?
The study: A classroom
experiment
Pretest
↓
Participants randomly assigned to 3 groups based
on pre-test scores
↓
↓
↓
Referential
Affective
Ref + Aff
only
only
Instruction : 4 x 40 mins
(twice a week in two consecutive weeks)
immediate posttest
1 month delayed posttest
The allocation of the participants
class 1
R
A
class 2
RA
R
A
control
group
class 3
RA
Control group chosen at random;
Four classes from same school.
R
A
RA
The outcome measurements
‘Explicit knowledge’ = accessed when no time
constraint, no/little communicative pressure
– Written gap-fill test
‘Implicit knowledge’ = time pressure and/or
communicative pressure
1. Grammaticality Judgment Test with a time constraint
(Ellis, 2005)
+ self-report
2. Oral tests:
a) picture-based narration
b) semi-structured conversation
+ self-report
Grammaticality Judgment Test
GROUP
N
Mean
Mean post
Pre test
test
(total possible
= 40)
Mean
delayed
post test
Ref + Aff
31
11
22
23
Referential
29
11
21
20
Affective
30
12
14
14
Control
30
12
13
13
Results of the gap-fill test
GROUP
N
Mean pre test
(out of 8)
Mean post Mean
test
delayed
post test
Referential
+
Affective
31
0.0
2.3
2.7
Referential
29
0.0
1.9
2.1
Affective
30
0.0
0.1
0.3
Control
30
0.0
0.0
0.0
Picture-based oral narration
n
pretest
posttest
Delayed post test
Ref + Aff
10
0.8
1.5
2.0
Referential
9
0.7
1.1
0.1
Affective
9
0.3
0.1
0.1
Control
9
0.3
0.7
0.8
Semi-structured conversation
Mean suppliance in obligatory contexts (%)
n
pretest
posttest
Delayed
post test
Ref + Aff
10
10.0
10.0
13.4
Referential
9
10.0
3.7
0.0
Affective
9
5.6
0.0
3.7
Control
9
1.9
5.3
0.0
So it looks mixed:
• No gains in oral production (=no gains in
knowledge accessible under time and
communicative pressure)
• But gains in timed GJT (often seen as
evidence of underlying language
competence)
Evidence from self-report from GJT
and from oral tests
• When you were doing the test, did you
think about any rules? (yes)
• Did you use that rule in the test? (yesx2)
• What was the rule? (give example or
describe it)
Evidence from self-report
• Rule-users consistently out-performed the
non-rule users.
• Non-rule users did not improve much more
than the control group or the affective
group
• So, the gains observed in the GJT
amongst the learners who had done
referential activities, were likely due to
explicit knowledge.
Conclusions
Problem 1: Affective activities, alone, or
with Ref activities, did not help
learning “-ed”.
 Referential activities (not “Structured
Input”) were cause of learning in previous
Processing Instruction studies?
Problem 2: Learning gains tended to
show characteristics of explicit
knowledge
Self-report (a conservative estimate)
BUT…
• might a different way of observing
‘learning’ provide some evidence that
learners pay attention to verb inflections
when they are asked to focus on the
meaning of the sentence?
• Perhaps our measures were not sensitive
enough to ‘implicit’ processes that occur
when learners hear or read input…
Calls for implicit techniques to research
constraints during input processing
“To investigate whether morphological knowledge is
automatically activated in spontaneous communication,
one needs a research method that allows us to examine
L2 learners’ performance under a condition in which their
use of explicit, nonautomatic knowledge is minimized.”
Jiang (2004: 608).
“measures such as those adopted in implicit memory
studies … may be more sensitive measures than those
requiring on- or off-line production and verbalisation of
the contents of awareness” Robinson (2003: 639).
“finely grained cognitive and perceptual measures”
Segalowitz (2006: 137)
Part 2:
Priming of verb inflections in
L2 French, and the effects of
orientation of attention
Emma Marsden, Gerry Altmann, Michelle St.
Clair
[email protected]
Funded by the University of York & Economic and
Social Research Council PTA-026-27-0252
What is priming?
• … a memory phenomenon that increases
the efficiency of and/or changes the nature
of processing repeated or related stimuli.
• Priming effects have been seen as window
into long term memory and learning
processes (Bock & Griffin, 2000),
particularly implicit processes.
What is priming?
• The effect that exposure to feature X has on:
– Subsequent speed of responding to X (or related
stimuli)
– And / or subsequent accuracy, use, preference, opinion
about X (or related stimuli)
• This “response” and “speed” data are compared
to responses to items without prior exposure
• Initial exposure = the prime = “study phase”
• Subsequent exposure = the target = “Test”
Priming & SLA
Reviews: McDonough & Trofimovich (2009), Marsden (2009)
• Semantic priming, stimuli & target related
– bilingual lexicon
– cross- and within-language
• Repetition priming, stimuli & target the same
– Within language
– Syntactic priming in oral interaction
– (Kim & McDonough 2008, McDonough, 2006; McDonough & Mackey 2008)
– Acoustic word priming
– (Trofimovich 2005 & 2008, Trofimovich & Gatbanton, 2006)
– Role of orientation to the form or meaning of words at exposure
– Links to pedagogical agendas (focus on form, explicit/implicit)
Priming evidence about the role of
orientation of attention to the input
• NO effect on priming in L1 learners or adults
(Church & Schacter 1994; Church & Fisher 1998)
• In an L2: a semantic orientation to the input did interfere
with priming
• For those with relatively lower pronunciation accuracy
• When exposure and test were in different voices
• L2 research to date:
– with intermediates & advanced bilinguals
– focus on isolated lexical items
– orientation tasks: rate word pleasantness (=meaning) and rate
word clarity (=perceptual, form)
– outcome measurements: reaction times for repeating words
Aims of current study
RQ: Can we observe priming of French verb
inflections amongst beginner L2 learners?
a) are such priming effects influenced by whether
learners are oriented to the form or sentence
meaning?
b) are such priming effects observed both in
reaction times and the nature of the responses?
Hypothesis:
Priming effects after ‘focus on form’,
no priming after ‘focus on sentence meaning’
Methods
Participants
• 51 beginner learners of French as a foreign language
• Aged 12-13
• L1 English
• Approx. 100-200 hours exposure to classroom
instruction
• From 5 local schools
Design
• Individuals randomly assigned to one of two exposure
conditions;
• All then did a lexical decision to test for priming effects
• Individual basis, using EPrime.
Design: Exposure phase
Focus on Form condition
• Attention to form essential
• Similarities with referential activities in
Processing Instruction (VanPatten 2004)
– Is the speaker talking about something they do
with other people? Press ‘with other people’ or
‘not’
Remember, in French we use ‘ons’ at the end of the verb if the
speaker is talking about something they do with other people.
• 30 ‘ons’ inflections
• 10 nontargets
• First 6 items only, ‘correct / incorrect’
feedback
Design: Exposure phase
Focus on Sentence Meaning condition
• Illogicality judgements
(Daneman & Carpenter 1980; Walters, 2004)
Do these sentences make sense or are they a bit
weird? Press ‘normal’ or ‘odd’.
15 logical,
15 nonsense
30 ‘ons’ inflections
Focus on semantics of verb + complement
Activation of representation of the subject and the
inflection would be incidental to task
Test phase
•
•
•
•
•
•
All did same lexical decision test
“Real word or made-up?”
All verb stems were made-up, but legal
Random presentation order
10 verbs with target (=‘heard’) inflections (-ons)
10 verbs with same verb stems but with nontarget
(=‘unheard’) inflections (all different)
Hypothesis: Focus on Form participants faster and
prefer ‘-ons’ compared to unheard inflections
Focus on Sentence Meaning participants no difference
between ‘–ons’ and unheard inflections
How did the FonF exposure condition
go? (accurate attention on the inflection?)
Inflection
mean
correct
Above chance
score (50%)?
-ons
69%
YES p<0.01
other
64%
YES p<0.05
Baseline parity between conditions
• At test, no difference between the FF and
FSM groups’ responses to +unheard
inflections
– Speed of responses
– responding “real word”, t=.481, p=.633
– responding “nonword”, t=.361, p=.719
– Nature of the responses
– t=.461, p=.647
Results:
Lexical decision reaction times
Test item
target
(‘heard’)
inflections
nontarget
(‘unheard’)
inflections
Response
given
FF
FSM
(mean ms.)
n=22
(mean ms.)
n=28
‘Real word’
‘Non word’
832
813
1102
1031
‘Real word’
‘Non word’
932
959
986
1002
Results: Lexical decision actual
responses
Test item
Response FF
FSM
(mean out of 10) (mean out of 10)
given:
‘Real word’ 5.7
4.7
Target
(heard)
inflections ‘Nonword’
4.3
5.3
Nontarget ‘Real word’ 4.8
(unheard)
inflections ‘Nonword’ 5.2
5.0
5.0
Conclusions (1)
• Of theoretical interest:
– French verb inflections can be primed, at least
amongst early learners
• In line with decompositional morphology models (MarslenWilson, 2007) & evidence that derivational morphology can
be primed (Marslen-Wilson et al. 1996)
– Inflections were not primed when learners trying to
understand sentence meaning
• In line with Trofimovich’s (2006 & 2008) findings that
semantic orientation interferes with priming for some learners
• Contra studies with L1 adult and learners, & contra
Trofimovich’s (2005) L2ers
– Orienting beginners’ attention to a verb inflection did
prime it
• Compatible with “attention necessary in early stages of SLA”
perspectives
Conclusions (2)
• Of methodological interest
– Priming techniques useful for researching focal
attention during input processing as a function of task
type.
– Differences were observed in both reaction times and
actual responses (parity of measures??)
• Of applied interest
– Informed us about priming under conditions broadly
comparable with classroom learning environments:
• beginner learners
• language which was not necessarily familiar
• input tasks which were broadly based on instructional events
Limitations & future work
1.
Awareness of the inflections in the ‘sentence meaning’ condition
–
2.
But any such awareness didn’t produce priming effects!
Referential activities conflate ‘attention to form’ with ‘redundancy’
–
–
FonF: no overt subject (nous), so inflection non-redundant
FSM: with co-indexed subject, so inflection redundant
Could be that less activation of inflection in FSM because of overt subject
–
–
3.
But FSM task focused on verb + complement
Presence or absence of subject not essential for decision about
illogicality, so wouldn’t change our results??
Does proficiency influence priming?
•
•
Do roles of attention and redundancy change with proficiency?
Proficiency influences nature of what can be processed, and amount of
explicitness needed
(Carroll 2001; VanPatten 2004; Ellis 2002; Robinson 1995; Schmidt 1990 & 2001)
•
Lexicon & morphosyntax relationship
(Bates & Goodman 1997, Thordardottir et al. 2002)
Ongoing…
• Orientation of attention and priming
• Experiment using an artificial language in
collaboration with John Williams:
– identical stimuli in 3 conditions: form focus (count the
syllables); inflection focus (referential activities);
meaning of stem focus
• A classroom experiment, to see whether
just focussing learners on the form of an
inflection is enough, or whether form AND
meaning leads to same results
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Preliminary follow-up study
•
•
With intermediates and natives
Inflection -ions:
Focus on Sentence Meaning: “nous mangions la table”: weird?
versus Focus on Form: “mangions la table”: speaker + others?
•
We might expect priming in FonF for 3 reasons:
– the grammatical anomaly (increases activation)
– the orientation of attention (increases activation)
– the absence of co-indexed subject (non-redundant = more activation).
•
•
And yet NO priming was found: no differences in reaction times or
preferences between the two conditions
SO – at higher proficiency, perhaps the inflection was activated even when
focusing on sentence meaning & inflection redundant (compatible with
VanPatten) BUT:
– Reaction times were long (1500ms) and so perhaps priming effects were masked
by a task artefact
– If there was activation, we’d expect priming of heard versus unheard inflection in
FSM too – not found.
– Could be difficult to elicit priming verb inflections amongst higher proficiencies?
– Perhaps holistic storage?
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Priming of verb inflections in L2 French, and the effects