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Temporal dynamics of late second language acquisition: evidence from event-related potentials

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Natalia Resende

on 12 May 2015

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Transcript of Temporal dynamics of late second language acquisition: evidence from event-related potentials

Temporal dynamics of late-second language acquisition: evidence from event-related brain potentials
Research Questions
The objective of this article is to elucidate the neurocognitive bases of late-acquired second language (L2) and focuses primarily on grammar-related processes.
1) Does late-acquired L2 involve the same neurocognitive
mechanisms as found in native speakers?
tentative answers will be offered to questions such as:
It is motivated by recent debates of the
"critical period hypothesis"
2) Do the neurocognitive substrates of
late-acquired L2 processing change with
increasing L2 proficiency?
3) Is there evidence for a critical period in the
acquisition of L2 grammar?
4) What might studies of the acquisition of
artificial languages reveal about
natural language acquisition/processing?
ERP studies showing
native-like patterns in L2
despite late AoA and independent of typological similarity between L1and L2, the late learners displayed native-like ERP patterns of brain activation if they had reached a
high level of proficiency
The results of other studies also have found the same patterns for higher levels of proficiency (LANs/P600) and N400 for semantic violations in all groups.

(Bowden et al., 2007; Kubota et al, 2004; Ojima et al., 2005; Rossi et al., 2006)
Other ERP studies:

1) Such effects are not limited to second language learning. Even within L1, higher proficiency levels result in stronger left lateralization of LAN effects and larger amplitude P600s (Pakulak et al., 2004);

2)Within the same L2 learners, proficiency levels may differ between specific structures resulting in distinct ERP patterns;

3) The mode of language learning/training may modulate ERP effects for L2 processing even where relative proficiency does not differ.
Important points about proficiency effects in ERPs:
ERP change over the course of late L2 acquisition;
The temporal dynamics
of L2 acquisition
A number of variable may modulate the starting point and exact time course of these transitions, such as:

L1 background
Learning Environment
Important to emphasize:
we assume
, highly motivated learners who are initially exposed to classroom instruction and then improve their language skills in an immersive environment with frequent use of the L2.
Directions for
future research
1) within-participant longitudinal designs vs. between-participantdesigns comparing L2 learners with native speakers and/or othergroups of L2
learners (e.g. varying proficiency levels or L1 background);

2) full-fledged vs. miniature languages;

3) natural vs. artificial language studies.
approaches that can be used in conjunction to test the hypothetical transitions
Use of miniature languages:
Other suggestions:
although each of the various experimental approaches discussed above entail both strengths and weaknesses, when used in conjunction with one another they offer the potential to make great strides towards elucidating the neurocognitive bases of a late acquired L2.
they allow the study of progress from novice to ‘native-like’ proficiency within a feasible time frame and allows to control-for/eliminate problematic confounds.
Thank You!!
Karsten Steinhauer, Erin J. White and John Drury
Neurocognition of Language Lab (McGill University - Canada)

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