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Are you sure?: using the error-related negativity to examine adult L2 learning

Blackstone, Sarah (2012) Are you sure?: using the error-related negativity to examine adult L2 learning. Undergraduate Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Previous investigations of second language (L2) learners’ proficiency have focused on explicit measures of overt responses. Recent data have shown discrepancies between L2 learners’ overtly measured behaviors and covertly measured implicit processes (McLaughlin, Inoue, & Loveless, 2000). Event-related potentials (ERPs) have been used as a covert measure of implicit sensitivity. Prior studies have focused on the P600 component as a measure of sensitivity to syntactic violations in L2 (Tokowicz & MacWhinney, 2005; Tolentino & Tokowicz, 2012). Tokowicz and MacWhinney (2005) used the P600 to index cross-language similarity effects, and found that GJT accuracy scores were lowest in conditions with features unique to L2, however, the ERP responses were the strongest to unique features. This suggests that L2 learners possess implicit sensitivity to L2 violations that is not always indicated by their overt behaviors.
The present study looks at another ERP component, the error-related negativity (ERN), which is elicited in response to error processing (Sebastián-Gallés, Rodríguez-Fornells, Diego-Balaguer, & Díaz, 2006). We reprocessed previously collected ERP data from Tolentino and Tokowicz (2012; unpublished data) to see if an ERN is present, which would indicate that L2 learners are sensitive to L2 violations. The ERN will be investigated as a function of stimulus grammaticality, response accuracy, electrode site and laterality. We found a significant four way interaction between these variables, as well as significant contrasts in mean amplitudes at certain electrodes. Additionally, we found a positive component elicited in response to errors made in the judgment on ungrammatical stimuli, suggesting the context and the type of error influences how errors are processed. Overall, our data indicate that L2 learners are sensitive to L2 violations, and are at some level aware, not only of what is grammatical, but also what is ungrammatical.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Blackstone, Sarahsrb58@pitt.eduSRB58
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Thesis AdvisorTokowicz, Natashatokowicz@pitt.eduTOKOWICZ
Committee MemberPerfetti, Chuckperfetti@pitt.eduPERFETTI
Committee MemberJuffs, Alanjuffs@pitt.eduJUFFS
Committee MemberJackson,
Date: 24 May 2012
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 9 April 2012
Approval Date: 24 May 2012
Submission Date: 19 April 2012
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 41
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: David C. Frederick Honors College
Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Linguistics
Degree: BPhil - Bachelor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Undergraduate Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: second language processing; second language learning; ERN; ERP
Date Deposited: 24 May 2012 17:28
Last Modified: 24 May 2017 05:15


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