Data_Sheet_1_Language Usage and Second Language Morphosyntax: Effects of Availability, Reliability, and Formulaicity.PDF (330.11 kB)
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Data_Sheet_1_Language Usage and Second Language Morphosyntax: Effects of Availability, Reliability, and Formulaicity.PDF

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posted on 29.04.2021, 05:08 authored by Rundi Guo, Nick C. Ellis

A large body of psycholinguistic research demonstrates that both language processing and language acquisition are sensitive to the distributions of linguistic constructions in usage. Here we investigate how statistical distributions at different linguistic levels – morphological and lexical (Experiments 1 and 2), and phrasal (Experiment 2) – contribute to the ease with which morphosyntax is processed and produced by second language learners. We analyze Chinese ESL learners’ knowledge of four English inflectional morphemes: -ed, -ing, and third-person -s on verbs, and plural -s on nouns. In Elicited Imitation Tasks, participants listened to length- and difficulty-matched sentences each containing one target morpheme and typed the whole sentence as accurately as they could after a short delay. Experiment 1 investigated lexical and morphemic levels, testing the hypotheses that a morpheme is expected to be more easily processed when it is (1) highly available (i.e., occurring in frequent word-forms), and (2) highly reliable (i.e., occurring in lemma words that are consistently conjugated in the form containing this morpheme). Thirty sentences were made for each morpheme, divided into three Availability-Reliability Distribution (ARD) groups on the basis of corpus analysis in the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA; Davies, 2008-): 10 target words high in availability, 10 high in reliability, and 10 low in both reliability and availability. Responses were scored on whether the target morpheme was accurately reproduced given the provision of the correct lemma. A generalized linear mixed-effects logit model (GLMM) revealed fixed effects of morpheme type, availability, and reliability on the accuracy of morpheme provision. There were no effects of lemma frequency. Experiment 2 successfully replicated these results and extended the investigation to explore phrasal formulaicity by manipulating the frequency of the four-word strings in which the morpheme was embedded. GLMMs replicated the effects of word-form availability and reliability and additionally revealed independent phrase-superiority effects where morphemes were better reproduced in contexts of higher string-frequency. Taken together, these findings demonstrate that morpheme acquisition reflects the distributional properties of learners’ experience and the mappings therein between lexis, morphology, phraseology, and semantics. These conclusions support an emergentist view of the statistical symbolic learning of morphology where language acquisition involves the satisfaction of competing constraints across multiple grain-sizes of units.

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