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Academic Paper

Title: Learned attention in adult language acquisition
Author: Nick C. Ellis
Institution: University of Michigan
Author: Nuria Sagarra
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: Rutgers University
Linguistic Field: Language Acquisition; Psycholinguistics
Subject Language: Chinese, Mandarin
Abstract: This study investigates associative learning explanations of the limited attainment of adult compared to child language acquisition in terms of learned attention to cues. It replicates and extends Ellis and Sagarra (2010) in demonstrating short- and long-term learned attention in the acquisition of temporal reference in Latin. In Experiment 1, salient adverbs were better learned than less salient verb inflections, early experience of adverbial cues blocked the acquisition of verbal morphology, and, contrariwise—but to a lesser degree—early experience of tense reduced later learning of adverbs. Experiment 2 demonstrated long-term transfer: Native speakers of Chinese (no tense morphology) were less able than native speakers of Spanish or Russian (rich morphology) to acquire inflectional cues from the same language experience where adverbial and verbal cues were equally available. Learned attention to tense morphology in Latin was continuous rather than discrete, ordered with regard to first language: Chinese < English < Russian < Spanish. A meta-analysis of the combined results of Ellis and Sagarra and the current study separates out positive and negative learned attention effects: The average effect size for entrenchment was large (+1.23), whereas that for blocking was moderate (–0.52).


This article appears IN Studies in Second Language Acquisition Vol. 33, Issue 4, which you can READ on Cambridge's site .

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