25.4070, Diss: Applied Linguistics (LF); Cognitive Science, Lang Acq, Neuroling, Psycholing: Tagarelli: 'The Neurocognition of Adult Second Language Learning: An fMRI Study'

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LINGUIST List: Vol-25-4070. Wed Oct 15 2014. ISSN: 1069 - 4875.

Subject: 25.4070, Diss: Applied Linguistics (LF); Cognitive Science, Lang Acq, Neuroling, Psycholing: Tagarelli: 'The Neurocognition of Adult Second Language Learning: An fMRI Study'

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Date: Wed, 15 Oct 2014 21:49:47
From: Kaitlyn Tagarelli [kaitlyn.tagarelli at gmail.com]
Subject: The Neurocognition of Adult Second Language Learning: An fMRI Study

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Institution: Georgetown University 
Program: Department of Linguistics 
Dissertation Status: Completed 
Degree Date: 2014 

Author: Kaitlyn Marie Tagarelli

Dissertation Title: The Neurocognition of Adult Second Language Learning: An
fMRI Study 

Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
                     Cognitive Science
                     Language Acquisition
                     Neurolinguistics
                     Psycholinguistics


Dissertation Director(s):
Aron K Barbey
Michael T. Ullman
Kara Morgan-Short
Alison Mackey
Elissa Newport

Dissertation Abstract:

This study investigates the neural structures and cognitive processes involved
in adult second language (L2) learning, and whether and how they change as a
function of increasing exposure and proficiency. By combining behavioral and
functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) measures, this study aims to
address fundamental questions in Second Language Acquisition research that
cannot be fully explored with behavioral methods alone.
Research to date suggests that the mechanisms underlying L2 may change during
acquisition, though in different ways for lexical/semantics and grammar.
However, it is logistically impossible to longitudinally investigate the
course of learning a natural language from initial exposure to advanced
proficiency. This has left major gaps in this research. Studies on the
learning of artificial linguistic systems (e.g., artificial grammars) have
begun to address this issue, but their generalizability to natural languages
has been questioned. The current study aims to bridge the gap between
artificial linguistic systems and natural languages by longitudinally
examining the learning of a reduced natural language, or “mini-language.”
Fifteen native speakers of English were trained on a subset of Basque, from
initial exposure to high proficiency. Behavioral and fMRI measures were
continuously acquired during all grammar training. 
Learners achieved very high proficiency in vocabulary and reasonably high
proficiency in grammar, though morphosyntactic agreement was difficult to
master. FMRI activation was found in areas associated with first language (L1)
processing (e.g., BA45/47, and parietal cortex for lexical/semantics, and BA44
and 6 for grammar), suggesting that late-L2 learners have access to L1
regions. Additional areas were engaged, suggesting that L1 mechanisms are not
sufficient for L2 learning and processing. At early stages of learning,
hippocampal activation was found for both vocabulary and grammar. At later
stages, basal ganglia activation was observed for grammar, particularly in the
caudate nucleus. The findings suggest that early word and grammar learning
relies on declarative memory (and more explicit processes), but that grammar
later relies on procedural memory (and more implicit processes). These results
highlight the utility of a mini-language model, have implications for
neurocognitive theories of L2, and demonstrate the importance of integrating
neural and behavioral methods in L2 research.







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