The role of linguistic input in language learning and processing

30th November 2021 : 13:00 - 14:00

Category: Seminar

Research Group: Applied Linguistics

Speaker: Dr Eva Viviani (University of Oxford)

Location: Teams

Convener: Faidra Faitaki

Audience: Public


Please note the different day.


Abstract: A quick glance at a text allows an expert reader to read a word in less than 100ms. This process exploits the statistical regularities at the orthographic, morphological, and semantic level to help guide perception. Traditionally, studies on reading acquisition have focused on children because they show wide variability in their language proficiency, and thus researchers can probe how language experience shapes reading skills and vice-versa. In this seminar, I argue that adult second language (L2) learners provide complementary insights into the role of experience in reading. In a masked priming experiment, I demonstrate that adult native speakers of Italian (n=90) are influenced by the orthographic/morphological/semantic regularities of printed words in English as function of their L2 proficiency. Results confirm the view that visual word recognition depends on the generation of predictions guided by prior linguistic input:  L2 words for low proficient speakers behave similarly to non-words in L1, mimicking the results obtained in native speakers learning novel words. However, with growing proficiency lexical memories strengthen associations between probabilistic orthography—to—semantics cues, aiding recognition. Towards the end of the seminar, I will introduce an ongoing experimental study with Dr Wonnacott probing the role of input variability learning the meaning of relational words above and below in children learning a novel language (English children exposed to Japanese). We plan to submit the project as a Registered Report, and to collect data in schools as soon as possible – feedback is very much appreciated.

Bios: Eva is a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellow in the Department of Education. She is working on a project investigating the role of prediction error in language learning with Dr Elizabeth Wonnacott. Before joining the department, Eva completed her PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience at the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA), in Italy, where she studied how people learn, represent and process  (printed) words.