LINGUIST List 15.1911

Thu Jun 24 2004

Confs: Psycholing/Cambridge, UK

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  1. jcf1000, Inaugural Meeting of the Psycholinguistics Group of BAAL (British Association of Applied Linguistics)

Message 1: Inaugural Meeting of the Psycholinguistics Group of BAAL (British Association of Applied Linguistics)

Date: Thu, 24 Jun 2004 10:38:45 -0400 (EDT)
From: jcf1000 <>
Subject: Inaugural Meeting of the Psycholinguistics Group of BAAL (British Association of Applied Linguistics)

Inaugural Meeting of the Psycholinguistics Group of BAAL (British
Association of Applied Linguistics)
Short Title: PsychoBAAL 

Date: 01-Jul-2000 - 02-Jul-2004
Location: Cambridge, United Kingdom
Contact: John Field
Contact Email: 

Linguistic Sub-field: Psycholinguistics 

Meeting Description:

The inaugural meeting of a new national group for Psycholinguists
which forms part of the British Association for Applied
Linguistics. There will be be a dinner on 1st July at Wolfson College
Cambridge followed by a Study Day on July 2nd with three plenary
speakers. They are: Professor Nick Ellis (University of Wales at
Bangor) on implicit second language learning, Dr Alison Wray (Cardiff
University) on units of representation and Dr Catherine Walter
(Institute of Education London) on working memory in reading. There
will be an extended discussion of the role of Psycholinguistics within
the British academic context. There will also be a business meeting
formally constituting the group.

Psycholinguistics group,
British Association of Applied Linguistics 

1st - 2nd July 2004
Wolfson College Cambridge

DINNER, 1st July at Wolfson College
6.45 for 7.15

9.00 Psycho-second-linguistics 	
Nick Ellis (University of Wales at Bangor)
The first half of this talk considers the implications of frequency
effects in language processing for the implicit learning and
representation of a second language. It reviews the psycholinguistic
evidence for frequency sensitivity in all domains of language
processing and representation. Separately, for reading and spelling,
vocabulary, speaking, listening and grammatical competence, it shows
how linguistic categories, schema, and prototypes emerge from the
processing of exemplars. In these ways, fluent language users are
rational in their language processing, their unconscious language
representation systems optimally prepared for comprehension and
production. Such evidence supports usage-based accounts of the
learning of linguistic constructions.

But what about the apparent irrationalities of SLA - the cases where
input fails to become intake? The second half of the talk describes
how 'learned attention,' a key concept in modern associative and
connectionist theories of animal and human learning, explains these
effects. The fragile features of SLA stem from standard phenomena of
associative learning: overshadowing, blocking, latent inhibition,
attentional shifting in perceptual learning, and other effects of
salience, transfer and inhibition. On reflection then, the apparent
irrationality of fragile SLA and fossilization provides further
evidence that SLA is cut of the same associative cloth as the rest of
cognition, warts and all.

10.15 A role for Psycholinguistics? 				
Chair: John Field

What is exciting about Psycholinguistics is its cross-disciplinary
nature. But this very characteristic gives it fuzzy boundaries so far
as many observers (including academics) are concerned. Does the
discipline fit best into a Department of Linguistics, a Department of
Psychology or a Department of Speech Sciences? The term
psycholinguistic has also become devalued, with some commentators
using it loosely to lend credence to models of cognitive processes in
L1 and L2 which have no basis in psychological theory. Is there any
way of countering this trend?

This session asks whether we can define the parameters of
psycholinguistics as a discipline. In particular, is it possible to
establish the precise nature of the relationship between
psycholinguistics and SLA? It then goes on to ask where the subject
fits in to academic programmes in the UK. How can we raise the profile
of Psycholinguistics within departments of linguistics and applied
linguistics? Does it have a role in undergraduate courses in Language
and Communication? How can we best support colleagues who are often
isolated within their departments? Finally, we will consider the issue
of how we can make psycholinguistics more accessible. How, in
particular, can we build bridges between the findings of
psycholinguists and the assumptions which underlie language teaching

A discussion paper will be circulated to participants.

11. 15 Coffee

11.45 The couch-potato model of language processing: why do more when
you can do less? 
Alison Wray, Cardiff University 

Just as pulling the petals off a flower will not reveal what makes it
beautiful, so an over-reductionist approach to the study of linguistic
processing may fail to capture the essential secrets of what language
is. This paper explores the nature of the 'unit' of processing, and
suggests that culture-centric assumptions about words and grammar may
have blinded us to the true essence of parsimony. Needs only analysis
offers an explanation for the limitations of the native speaker's
linguistic knowledge and expressive range, and suggests that our
ability to deal with the unexpected is balanced by a strategy for
doing as little as possible.

13.00 Lunch

14.00 Business meeting establishing the BAAL Psycholinguistics group

Title 'Constitution 'Committee Proposed activities Liaison with

15.00 Transfer of reading comprehension skills to L2 is linked to
mental representations of text and to L2 working memory
Catherine Walter, Institute of Education
Two notions from cognitive science will be examined in relation to the
transfer of reading comprehension skills from L1 to L2: (1) the notion
that reading comprehension proceeds by the comprehender building a
mental representation of the text and (2) the notion of working
memory. Two groups of French learners of English (at
upper-intermediate and lower-intermediate proficiency levels), all
proficient comprehenders in L1 French, differed in their ability to
comprehend texts in L2 English. This was the case even when the
lower-intermediate learners had no problem in processing the
individual sentences of those texts. Performance in pro-form
resolution in two distance conditions provided strong support for the
hypothesis that the lower-intermediate group had failed to transfer to
L2 their ability to build well-structured mental representations of
texts, while the upper-intermediate group had succeeded in
transferring this ability. This structure-building ability can in turn
be linked to the development of working memory in L2.

16.15 Tea, closing session
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