Interaction Between Processing and Maintenance in Online L2 Sentence Comprehension: Implications for Linguistic Threshold Hypothesis

| December 25, 2009
Title
Interaction Between Processing and Maintenance in Online L2 Sentence Comprehension: Implications for Linguistic Threshold Hypothesis

Keywords: second language reading, linguistic threshold hypothesis, working memory, word recognition process

Authors
Shigeo Kato
Niigata University, Japan

Bio Data
Shigeo Kato is a professor in the Faculty of Education at Niigata University, Japan. He holds Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics from University of Essex. His main research interests are the second language reading process and its implication to L2 reading pedagogy.

Abstract
The present study explores the possible mechanism of the L2 reading threshold phenomenon by focusing on the relationship between processing and maintenance efficiency in self-paced reading performance. The subjects were 62 Japanese college-level ESL learners. A series of experiments examined anomaly detection performance for numerical and pronominal disagreements in two types of structural complexity, i.e. centre-embedded subject/object-relative. First, Experiment 1 investigated which principle, trade-off or trace-decay, governs the functioning of the two components. The results revealed that although they may generally operate on the basis of trace-decay, the outcome from the better performers did not exclude the trade-off possibility. This yielded a supposition that the modality of information maintenance may provide explanation to the apparently confounding results. Experiment 2 thus tapped into the impact from the presence of irrelevant speech using the same experimental paradigm. The results were remarkable: improvement, rather than deterioration, in anomaly-detection performance was evidenced, particularly from the poor performers in Experiment 1, providing evidence for strategy-switching from phonological to direct-visual word-recognition process. Follow-up correlational analyses including working memory capacity indicated both trace-decay and trade-off were responsible for the reading threshold phenomenon, perhaps depending on which word-recognition strategy readers employ.

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See pages 235-273

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Category: Quarterly Journal, Volume 11 Issue 4