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Title: I still can't questions : the role of working memory in the longitudinal development of L2 English questions in an immersion setting
Authors: Wright, Clare
Issue Date: 2010
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: This study adds to the growing body of research into the connection between greater working memory (WM) capacity and L2 development, by investigating correlations between WM and development of accurate wh-movement in L2 English in an immersion setting. Five WM tests were used (including Digits Back, Listening Span), with the addition of innovative story recall tasks, using both L 1 and L2, to test the concept of the episodic buffer in the latest model ofWM (Baddeley 2000). Three target wh-constructions were tested: short-distance and long-distance wh-questions, and subjacency violations. Development of the target wh-constructions was tracked in a longitudinal study of thirty-two instructed Chinese speakers of English during a year's postgraduate study at universities in the UK. Participants were matched for proficiency level (IELTS 5.5 or above) and for L2 exposure in their home countries before arrival. Oral production data, timed grammaticality judgement data and WM data were collected on arrival and again after 11 months, and compared using statistical analysis. Significant positive correlations were found between Story Recall in LI and improvement between Time 1 and Time 2: both with improved oral question production (r=.39, p<.05) and with greater accuracy on subjacency judgements (r=.40, p<.OI). However, there were no significant differences found on L2 accuracy scores between time 1 and time 2; significant improvements were only found on reaction time speeds and posthoc analysis of oral fluency. The study concludes that a year's immersion appears to favour processing existing grammatical knowledge rather than trigger acquisition of new grammatical knowledge, even for those with greater WM. The study provides some support for the hypothesis that WM correlates with L2 grammatical development, but indicates further research is required to understand the role of WM in L2 acquisition, and the complex representation of grammatical knowledge in the L2 mind.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences

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