• Multiword Units at the Interface: Deliberate Learning and Implicit Knowledge Gains

      Nation, I. S. P.; Beglar, David J.; Ross, Steven, 1951-; Elgort, Irina; Kozaki, Yoko (Temple University. Libraries, 2015)
      Multiword units (MWUs) is a term used in the current study to broadly cover what second language acquisition (SLA) researchers refer to as collocations, conventional expressions, chunks, idioms, formulaic sequences, or other such terms, depending on their research perspective. They are ubiquitous in language and essential in both first language (L1) and second language (L2) acquisition. Although MWUs are typically learned implicitly while using language naturally in both of these types of acquisition, the current study is an investigation of whether they are acquired in implicit knowledge when they are learned explicitly in a process called deliberate paired association learning. In SLA research, it is widely accepted that explicit knowledge is developed consciously and implicit knowledge is developed subconsciously. It is also believed that there is little crossover from explicit learning to implicit knowledge. However, recent research has cast doubt on this assumption. In a series of priming experiments, Elgort (2007, 2011) demonstrated that the formal and semantic lexical representations of deliberately learned pseudowords were accessed fluently and integrated into the mental lexicon, convincing evidence that deliberately learned words are immediately acquired in implicit knowledge. The current study aimed to extend these findings to MWUs in a psycholinguistic experiment that tested for implicit knowledge gains resulting from deliberate learning. Participants’ response times (RTs) were measured in three ways, on two testing instruments. First, subconscious formal recognition processing was measured in a masked repetition priming lexical decision task. In the second instrument, a self-paced reading task, both formulaic sequencing and semantic association gains were measured. The experiment was a counterbalanced, within-subjects design; so all comparisons were between conditions on items. Results were analyzed in a repeated measures linear mixed-effects model with participants and items as crossed random effects. The dependent variable was RTs on target words. The primary independent variable was learning condition: half of the critical MWUs were learned and half of them were not. The secondary independent variable was MWU composition at two levels: literal and figurative. The masked priming lexical decision task results showed that priming effects increased especially for learned figurative MWUs, evidence that implicit knowledge gains were made on their formal and semantic lexical representations as a result of deliberate learning. Results of the self-paced reading task were analyzed from two perspectives, but were less conclusive with regard to the effects of deliberate learning. Regarding formulaic sequencing gains, literal MWUs showed the most evidence of acquisition, but this happened as a result of both incidental and deliberate learning. With regard to semantic associations, it was shown that deliberate learning had similar effects on both literal and figurative MWUs. However, a serendipitous finding from this aspect of the self-paced reading results showed clearly that literal MWUs reliably primed semantic associations and sentence processing more strongly than figurative MWUs did, both before and after deliberate learning. In sum, results revealed that the difficulties learners have with developing fluent processing of figurative MWUs can be lessened by deliberate learning. On the other hand, for literal MWUs incidental learning is adequate for incrementally developing representation strength.