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Academic Paper

Author: Mika Hama
Institution: Georgetown University
Author: Ronald P. Leow
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: Georgetown University
Linguistic Field: Applied Linguistics
Abstract: The role of awareness or consciousness in learning has been a relatively contentious issue in non-SLA fields (e.g., cognitive psychology). With the publications of Williams (2004, 2005), a similar debate appears to be brewing in the field of SLA. Contrary to Leow (2000), who reported that unawareness did not appear to play an important role in second or foreign language development, Williams (2005) offered empirical evidence that learning without awareness appears to be feasible. At the same time, it is also noted that Leow’s and Williams’s (2005) research designs measured unawareness at different stages (online encoding and offline retrieval, respectively) of the acquisitional process. The present study revisited and extended Williams’s (2005) study by using a hybrid design to gather concurrent data at the stage of encoding and during the testing phase as well as nonconcurrent data after the experimental exposure. Some methodological changes were also implemented to probe deeper into learners’ thought processes. The quantitative analyses performed on the data of 34 carefully screened participants revealed that, at the encoding stage, unaware learners do not appear capable of selecting or producing the correct determiner-noun combination when required to do so from options that include both animacy and distance information. The qualitative data underscore the importance of not only situating the measurement of the construct (un)awareness from different stages—that is, both online and offline—but also triangulating data from several sources in any report on its role in learning. Plausible explanations for the differences in findings are discussed.


This article appears IN Studies in Second Language Acquisition Vol. 32, Issue 3, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .

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