This is the third article in a series of articles about Psycholinguistics in the ESOL (ESL, EFL) Classroom. This particular article discusses the process of native and target language storage from a Psycholinguistic perspective. A leading researcher in Psycholinguistics, John Field (2008), poses three basic questions that Psycholinguists are concerned with:
1. How individuals acquire language (whether an L1 or an L2)
2. How individuals store language in their minds and
3. How individuals use language (how they assemble it into productionsand how they understand it when produced by others).
Language Storage is the topic of this particular article.
SLA (Second Language Acquisition) research on language storage is constantly and inconclusively investigating what is being stored and which teaching methods result in the most storage. The field of Psycholinguistics investigates: What about how this information is stored and how to design a lesson plan that maximizes the storage potential for students? Are words stored individually in our personal lexicon and out of context or are words stored in our brains like a corpus “embedded into recurrent (formulaic) chunks of language” (Field 2008). Is this process the same for L1 and L2 learners?
According to Psycholinguistics, when it comes to chunks of language, research has been done on “what is or is not recognized as a formulaic chunk” by a learner (Field 2008) and it is the same for L1 and L2 learners. According to researchers Ellis, Simpson-Vlach, and Maynard (2008) there are three factors “its length, the cumulative frequency of the components of the chunk, and mutual information (MI), the extent to which the components of the chunk co-occur across the corpus in question” (Field 2008). Interestingly enough, their conclusions align with a Psycholinguistic perspective. They concluded that L1 and L2 learners have contrary perspectives. The researchers “report that the most important factor for L1 users proved to be MI but that for L2 users tested, it was cumulative frequency” (Field 2008).
When it comes to the second language learner: How are two distinct sets of vocabulary are stored in the brain and how the brain comes to recognize them. Is all language stored together or is each language compartmentalized? Psycholinguistics addresses these questions and the answers will be valuable to ESOL (ESL, EFL) teachers. Lesson plans can be developed to stimulate these processes.
The most popular view at this point in time is that the language is stored together. How does the learner recognize the word? “The most widely accepted model of word recognition” is very similar to using auto-text on your cell phone (Field 2008). As you type the letters of your text message the phone suggests the words you are most likely texting. It is a similar process in your brain. As you read the letters of a word your brain automatically deduces which word in your lexicon it is. “As evidence accumulates, one item achieves such a high level of activation that it wins out over all the others and becomes recognized” (Field 2008).
*If you enjoyed this article, please view my other articles in this Psycholinguistic series by clicking my name “Tesl Goddess” .
Ellis, Nick C.; Simpson-Vlach, Rita; Maynard, Carson. (2008). Formulaic Language in Native and Second Language Speakers: Psycholinguistics, Corpus Linguistics, and TESOL. TESOL Quarterly, Volume 42, Number 3, pp. 375-396(22).
Field, John. (2008). Face to Face With the Ghost in the Machine: Psycholinguistics and TESOLTESOL Quarterly, Volume 42, Number 3, pp. 361-374(14).