Development of conscious knowledge during early incidental learning of L2 syntax
Second language acquisition (SLA) researchers have a long-standing interest in the effectiveness of providing learners with conscious knowledge (CK) through explicit instruction (e.g., Sanz & Morgan-Short, 2004); however, little is known about how CK develops under incidental learning conditions, without pedagogical intervention. In two experiments, the present dissertation addresses this gap by exploring the development of conscious knowledge of L2 syntax under incidental learning conditions, focusing on: (a) the mechanisms of L2 syntactic development and (b) the development of conscious knowledge of L2 syntax over time.Experiment 1 addressed the mechanisms supporting L2 syntactic development under incidental learning conditions. Computational simulations of behavioral results indicated that Experimental participants who read sentences from a semiartificial language with probabilistic syntax in a moving-window paradigm learned via chunking mechanisms.Experiment 2 extended these findings, focusing on the development of CK of L2 syntax over time. Following calls for triangulation in SLA research on awareness (e.g., Leow, 2000; Robinson, Mackey, Gass, & Schmidt, 2012), CK was operationalized using three measures of awareness: recognition memory (e.g., Perruchet, Bigand & Benoit-Gonin, 1997), retrospective verbal reports (e.g., Williams, 2005), and a novel subjective fluency judgment task. Eighty-two participants were randomly assigned to either an experimental or control group in one of three conditions, which differed in the amount of input. Participants were exposed to semiartificial language materials under the guise of a subjective fluency rating task. Afterward, participants received an unexpected recognition memory test, in which they had to discriminate between old and new sentences. Finally, participants took part in a retrospective verbal interview.Results indicated that learners' CK was not equally captured by different measures of awareness, which underscores the need for methodologies that triangulate awareness using multiple measures. Participants formed CK in the form of declarative memories and verbalizable metalinguistic knowledge after as few as six exposures to new syntactic structures. Moreover, results indicated that L2 learners may rapidly and continuously acquire CK of L2 syntax even under incidental learning conditions, and is consistent with usage-based (e.g., N. Ellis, 2005; Robinson, 1996, 1997) and memory-based accounts of SLA (e.g., Paradis, 2009; Ullman, 2005).
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