Master of Arts (MA)



Document Type



Abstract Cues to the actor role such as word order, noun animacy, case inflection and verb agreement vary in strength across languages. The competition model (CM; MacWhinney, 2005) suggests that adult L2 acquisition is difficult due to differences in cue strength between the native and target languages. Using a paradigm inspired by the CM, the present study examines whether salience plays a role in facilitating adjustments of cue strength during L2 learning. Native English speakers were exposed to an artificial language (via an actor-assignment task) which utilized four different cues: verb agreement, case marking, animacy, and word order. Word order, the strongest English cue, was the weakest relative to the other cues, requiring a shift in cue interpretation strategies. Salience was manipulated through the use of visual input enhancement (VIE). The two available morphological cues were presented with 1) no color contrast, 2) both marked with the same color contrast, or 3) each marked with a different color contrast. In Experiment 1, the cue hierarchy was dominated by the morphological cues (verb agreement > case marking > animacy > word order). It was found that VIE was effective in facilitating participant reliance upon the relevant cues, particularly so for the case marking cue. However, in Experiment 2, the cue hierarchy was rearranged so that a semantic cue was most the dominant (animacy > verb agreement > case marking > word order). With this hierarchy rearrangement, we failed to observe any benefit of VIE; participants continuously relied up the animacy cue. We conclude that VIE is a potentially effective tool for helping language learners adapt to the strength of cues in their target language. However, the efficacy of VIE seems limited 1) situations where it marks cues that are very high in the dominance hierarchy, and 2) to cues with low cognitive cost.



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Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

McDonald, Janet



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Psychology Commons