LINGUIST List 24.35

Tue Jan 08 2013

Review: Applied Linguistics: Granena et al., eds. (2011)

Editor for this issue: Monica Macaulay <monicalinguistlist.org>



Date: 08-Jan-2013
From: Otis Elliott, Jr. <otis_elliotsubr.edu>
Subject: Selected Proceedings of the 2010 Second Language Research Forum: Reconsidering SLA Research, Dimensions, and Directions
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/23/23-790.html

EDITORS: Gisela Granena, Joel Koeth, Sunyoung Lee-Ellis, Anna Lukyanchenko,Goretti Prieto Botana, and Elizabeth RhoadesTITLE: Selected Proceedings of the 2010 Second Language Research Forum:Reconsidering SLA Research, Dimensions, and DirectionsSERIES TITLE: Cascadilla Proceedings ProjectPUBLISHER: CascadillaYEAR: 2011

Otis Phillip Elliott, Jr., Department of Foreign Languages, SouthernUniversity at Baton Rouge

SUMMARY

Since 1977, a Second Language Research Forum (SLRF) has convened to givescholars and graduate students a chance to share their research. This bookcomprises fifteen selected papers presented at the 2010 SLRF, held at theUniversity of Maryland at College Park. The editors have chosen works thatfocus on second language (L2) instruction and learning, L2 testing, studyabroad, working memory, heritage language acquisition, learner corpora, and L2processing and acquisition of linguistic structures. As this briefcategorization and the proceeding’s title suggest, there are many dimensionsto second language research (SLR) and a growing number of directions thatresearchers are taking in their approaches to the study of second languageacquisition (SLA). Due to word limitations, I have chosen 5 of the 15 papersto describe in some detail. Each paper in the collection, however, deserves afull review in its own right. In fact, the collection is a fascinating readfor any student of SLA.

Wenhao Dao’s study, titled ‘Study Abroad, Participation and Turn Taking: ACase Study’, looks more deeply “into the nature of the interactions andquality of the experiences” (p. 2) of a study abroad (SA) participant inChina, by analyzing (triangulating) conversational themes, turn-taking types,and SA experiences with native speakers (NS). The theoretical point of viewtaken is that of Lave and Wenger (1991), called Community of Practice (CoP),where newcomers (in this case, an L2 Chinese study abroad participant inChina) must learn how to negotiate legitimacy with old timers (in this case,Chinese NS) in order to more fully participate in social activities within thecommunities. Through the author’s analysis, one sees that this young,motivated American college student broadened his roles, increased his range ofsocial activities, and improved his linguistic abilities, in parallel, overthe semester-long sojourn in China. In the end, he was able to be perceivedand accepted by the local people as a foreigner interested in Chinese andinvited to participate more fully in social activities. This change in rolesand increase in the types of NS he interacted with paralleled his turn-takingdevelopment (increased self-initiated turns, allocated turns, and fewerrequests for repairs), as measured by audio-recordings, transcriptions, andanalyses of conversations the participant had with the author throughout thelength of the study.

Mandy Faretta-Stutenberg and Kara Morgan-Short investigate whether unawarelearning (unconscious mental processing) takes place (Williams 2005) orwhether awareness (conscious mental processing) is necessary for languagelearning (Schmidt 1990), in their study called ‘Learning without AwarenessReconsidered: A Replication of Williams (2005)’. Nonce English determiners(‘gi, ro, ul, ne’) were taught to 30 undergraduate students, who then weretested on both trained and new items. They were also interviewed to discoverwhether they noticed or became aware of the rule governing determinerselection, which was +/- animacy. Performance on new items was generally pooracross groups. Results suggest unaware learning did not take place in thisstudy, but there were important differences between it and Williams (2005),which may explain the lack of corresponding findings: Williams (2005) includedgraduate students and those studying in linguistic fields, many with aknowledge of more than one L2 at the intermediate level, while the presentstudy’s participants did not share in these features. Some correlation betweenyears of education and level of awareness were found in the present study:older students with more education may be more adept at analyzing, seeking outand finding patterns and rules in language.

Kook-Hee Gil, Heather Marsden, and Melinda Whong consider the issues of firstlanguage (L1) transfer, negative evidence, and the poverty of the stimulusproblem in the learning of the English word ‘any’ and its variants by avariety of L1 speakers (with a focus on Korean, Chinese and Arabic speakers),in their paper ‘L2 Acquisition of ‘any’: Negative Evidence, NegativeImplicature and Negative L1 Transfer’. They pose the question whether L2English learners can acquire the lexical properties of ‘any’ (that is, when itis licensed for use and when it is not). If a teacher explicitly explains therestrictions on use (ex: ‘You must not use ‘any’ in a progressive declarative,as in *‘Anyone is playing the guitar.’), does that improve acquisition? Doesany similarity, or lack thereof, between the L1 equivalent of ‘any’ and L2English ‘any’ influence acquisition? What is clear from the results of thisstudy is that the L2 English learners had a difficult time in acquiring thelexical properties of ‘any.’ There was a tendency among all learners to rejectthe use of ‘any’ even in grammatical contexts, according to their performanceon grammaticality judgment tasks that were contextualized within story lines.Support was found in this study for Giannakidou (1998)’s indirect licensing of‘any’ in contexts with the word ‘only’ (‘Only John knew anything about this’)and with a verb like ‘regret’ (‘I regret that I said anything to him’). L2English learners were better at judging the syntactic licensing of ‘any’ thanat judging the indirect, semantic licensing of ‘any’. Suggestions forclassroom instruction of ‘any’ based on the L1 of students are offered,including a more in-depth study of the lexical properties of words in theclassroom, especially for students whose L1 is in a superset relationship(i.e. less restrictive than the L2) regarding the L2 language property underconsideration.

Makiko Hirakawa and Kazunori Suzuki, in their article ‘Learnability andModality Restrictions on Conditionals in L2 Japanese and English’, makepredictions about whether L2 English conditionals (e.g., ‘If it rainstomorrow, please let me sleep late’) were easier to learn than L2 Japaneseconditionals, given their superset/subset relationship regarding thisparticular language property. While there are few restrictions on the use ofmodality in English conditionals, there exist very specific ones in Japanese:Modality use in conditionals is prohibited with either ‘to’ or ‘ba’ witheventive verbs, and also with ‘to’ when stative verbs are present. Resultsfrom the intermediate and advanced learners of L2 English and L2 Japanesesupport this conclusion. L2 English learners performed better ongrammaticality judgment tasks than did their L2 Japanese counterparts, withboth patterning after but failing to meet the level of accuracy in judgmentsof the native speaker control groups. As predicted, L2 Japanese learners (whowere L1 English speakers) had a difficult time correctly judging ungrammaticalcases of ‘ba’ with eventive verbs. However, there was little difference in theperformance between the intermediate and advanced L2 English groups, when adifference in performance was predicted.

Anna Lukyanchenko, William J. Idsardi and Nan Jiang examine the role of the L1in processing prosodic constraints on primary word stress in the L2, from theperspective of parameter setting (Chomsky 1981) and a psycholinguisticapproach to stress perception (Dupoux et al. 1997), in their article ‘OpeningYour Ears: The Role of L1 in Processing of Nonnative Prosodic Contrasts’.Predictions are that when the L1 and L2 share the same parameter setting, thena feature copying mechanism can be used to set the L2 features. When this isnot the case, learners will need to learn new rules to reset the prosodicfeatures that differ from L1. Metrical parameters that may need to be resetinclude foot size, headedness, quantity sensitivity, and several others (eightin all). The authors examine the stress perception behavior of speakers ofFrench, Russian and Persian (three typologically different languages). InFrench, word stress does not play a significant contrastive function, thusFrench speakers are predicted to have trouble processing stress that iscontrastive in the L2. Russian has many patterns of word stress, and,therefore, the prediction is that its speakers will be more sensitive to, andbetter at, processing stress in the L2. Persian is much more like French butstill has some contrastive stress patterns, so Persian speakers are predictedto perform somewhat in between the Russian and French speakers when processingword stress in the L2. The results of the two tasks of the study--a stressidentification task with contrastive stress minimal pairs possible in all 3languages: ‘fi-ki; fi-‘ki; ‘mi-pa; and mi-‘pa, and a SRT short-term memorytask (word stress sequences), upheld the predictions. Russian speakers werefaster and more accurate with the tasks and French speakers were slower andmuch less accurate. Persian speakers did fall somewhere in between the two,but still their performance was more like French speakers than Russianspeakers. L1 prosodic features had a significant effect on the processing ofL2 word stress.

EVALUATION

As the title of these proceedings indicates, the research being undertaken inthe field of second language acquisition is multi-dimensional andmulti-directional, which allows for different ways of trying to come to gripswith what SLA is. While the collection is a marvelous read, still, somecritique may be offered. For example, the Faretta-Stutenberg and Morgan-Shortreplication of Williams (2005) begs the question whether it can be considereda true replication given that the participant pools differed in importantattributes, namely those that the authors suggest may have accounted for thefindings of Williams (2005). It may well be best to replicate thecharacteristics of the participants in the original study, especially thosefeatures that seem critical to the question posed by the replicating study.

Many of the papers in the collection, quite understandably, are concerned withthe relationship between the first language (L1) and the second language (L2)and how that relationship influences L2 acquisition. Hirakawa and Suzuki, aswell as Lukyanchencko, Idsardi and Jiang looked closely in their respectivestudies at the influences of the L1 on the L2. A considerable number of suchhypothesis-testing research in SLA unfortunately (in my view) have had atendency for their results to be as found as predicted. As a reader andstudent of SLA research, this verificationist approach to research isbothersome given the little we still know of second language acquisition.Nevertheless, the book overall is a wonderful read. It is absolutelyfascinating to ponder the many approaches and findings, and the editors are tobe congratulated for producing a fine volume.

REFERENCES

Chomsky, Noam. 1981. Lectures on Government and Binding. Dordrecht: ForisPublications.Dupoux, Emmanuel, Pallier, Christophie, Sebastian, Núria & Mehler, Jacques.1997. A destressing ''deafness'' in French? Journal of Memory and Language,36(3), 406-421.

Giannakidou, Anastasia. 1998. Polarity Sensitivity as (Non)VeridicalDependency. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Lave, Jean, & Wenger, Etienne. 1991. Situated learning: Legitimate peripheralparticipation. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Schmidt, Richard. 1990. The role of consciousness in second language learning.Applied Linguistics, 11, 129-158.

Williams, John N. 2005. Learning without awareness. Studies in SecondLanguage Acquisition, 27, 269-304.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER

Otis Phillip Elliott, Jr. teaches Spanish, English and Chinese at SouthernUniversity at Baton Rouge in the Department of Foreign Languages. Elliottholds a PhD in Second Language Acquisition and Teaching from the University ofArizona, a MA in Spanish from the University of Kentucky, and a second MA inEnglish from the University of North Texas.

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