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The Language Hoax

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Language and Development in Africa

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Academic Paper


Title: Individual differences reveal stages of L2 grammatical acquisition: ERP evidence
Author: Darren Scott Tanner
Email: click here TO access email
Homepage: http://www.personal.psu.edu/dst12/index.html
Institution: Pennsylvania State University
Author: Judith McLaughlin
Institution: University of Washington
Author: Julia Rogers Herschensohn
Email: click here TO access email
Homepage: http://depts.washington.edu/lingweb/Faculty_Herschensohn.php
Institution: University of Washington
Author: Lee Osterhout
Institution: University of Washington
Linguistic Field: Language Acquisition; Psycholinguistics
Abstract: Here we report findings from a cross-sectional study of morphosyntactic processing in native German speakers and native English speakers enrolled in college-level German courses. Event-related brain potentials were recorded while participants read sentences that were either well-formed or violated German subject–verb agreement. Results showed that grammatical violations elicited large P600 effects in the native Germans and learners enrolled in third-year courses. Grand mean waveforms for learners enrolled in first-year courses showed a biphasic N400–P600 response. However, subsequent correlation analyses revealed that most individuals showed either an N400 or a P600, but not both, and that brain response type was associated with behavioral measures of grammatical sensitivity. These results support models of second language acquisition which implicate qualitative changes in the neural substrates of second language grammar processing associated with learning. Importantly, we show that new insights into L2 learning result when the cross-subject variability is treated as a source of evidence rather than a source of noise.

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This article appears IN Bilingualism: Language and Cognition Vol. 16, Issue 2, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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