Dr. Nuria Sagarra, Associate professor at Rutgers University, will discuss her psycholinguistic research on the second-language acquisition of Spanish using Eye-tracking technology.
"Eye Tracking Reveals Proficiency Effects on Transfer Emergence"
Inflected languages can mark semantic information (e.g., tense, number) with lexical cues (e.g., temporal adverbs, overt subjects) and morphological cues (e.g., suffixes) (Evans, 2003). Children use morphological before lexical cues to tense and number (e.g., Valian, 2006), but adult learners have persistent difficulty processing inflectional morphology (e.g., Hopp, 2010). We investigate associative learning explanations that involve the blocking of later experienced cues by earlier learned ones in the first language (L1; i.e., transfer) and the second language (L2; i.e., proficiency), as well as cognitive explanations in terms of cognitive load and resources, in two eye-tracking experiments. In Experiment 1 (Sagarra & Ellis, 2013), English (poor morphology) and Romanian (rich morphology) learners of Spanish (rich morphology) and English, Romanian, and Spanish monolinguals read sentences in L2 Spanish (or their L1 for the monolinguals) containing adverb-verb/verb-adverb congruencies/incongruencies and chose one of four pictures after each sentence (two competing for meaning and two for form). Experiment 2 (Sagarra, forthcoming) replicates Experiment 1 with an additional beginners group and with sentences containing subject-verb congruencies/incongruencies. The results of both experiments revealed that all participants except the beginning learners were sensitive to incongruencies. These findings are in line with studies reporting insensitivity to morphosyntactic violations at beginning but not later stages of L2 development (e.g., Sagarra, 2008; Sagarra & Herschensohn, 2010). Most importantly, monolinguals and intermediate and advanced learners of a morphologically rich L1 looked longer at verbs than monolinguals and intermediate and advanced learners of a morphologically poor L1. However, no transfer effects were observed in the beginning learners. We argue that transfer effects emerge at intermediate proficiency levels, when morphological processing is cognitively more assimilable and sensitivity to morphological agreement violations appears. This is in line with Han and Liu’s (2013) recent findings suggesting that transfer requires certain level of L2 knowledge.
This guest speaker visit is made possible by a UGA Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) Learning Technologies Grant.