Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Individual differences and the effectiveness of visual feedback on reflexive binding in L2 Japanese
by Sachs, Rebecca Raewyn, Ph.D., Georgetown University, 2011, 505; 3450858
Abstract (Summary)

Second language acquisition research into the effects of corrective feedback has investigated a variety of learning targets using a wide range of implicit and explicit feedback types (Li, 2010). To date, however, its linguistic focus has been limited to theoretically noticeable surface features (Carroll, 2001; Schmidt, 2001), and researchers have only recently begun to explore how individual differences might influence the effectiveness of particular feedback techniques (Robinson, 2005). This dissertation examines whether metalinguistic feedback presented in a visual format can help English-speaking learners improve their accuracy in interpreting the Japanese reflexive zibun (‘self’), whose binding behavior involves structural characteristics (e.g., c-command, subjecthood) not overtly represented in surface morphosyntax. Both positive and negative evidence may be necessary since, unlike English himself, Japanese zibun allows long-distance antecedents while disallowing non-subject antecedents (Thomas, 1995).

In a computer-assisted language learning experiment using a pre-/post-/delayed-post-test design, 80 university Japanese learners were randomly assigned into three treatment conditions: one informing them whether or not their interpretations were correct (Right/Wrong Feedback), one informing them of correctness and illustrating relevant structural relationships with tree diagrams (Trees Feedback), and one providing no feedback. Participants were also administered a battery of cognitive tests, including the Modern Language Aptitude Test (Carroll & Sapon, 1959), the Visual Patterns Test (Della Sala et al., 1997), and a test of metalinguistic knowledge and sensitivity to ambiguity.

Results indicated clear evidence of improvement only in the Trees-Feedback group, and cognitive variables showed different relationships with test performance according to treatment condition: Visual memory, grammatical sensitivity, rote memory, and sensitivity to ambiguity predicted post-test scores in the Trees-Feedback condition; course levels and length of Japanese study predicted scores in the Right/Wrong-Feedback condition; and grammatical sensitivity, metalinguistic knowledge, and formal study of linguistics predicted scores in the No-Feedback condition.

Thus, visual feedback can facilitate the learning of a linguistic target which involves underlying structural relationships, but may work best for learners with particular aptitude profiles. Analyses of aptitude-treatment interactions hold great promise for advancing the field of SLA through producing insights about language learning processes and helping to optimize L2 instruction in relation to learners’ individual characteristics.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Mackey, Alison
Commitee: Leow, Ronald P., Revesz, Andrea
School: Georgetown University
Department: Linguistics
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: DAI-A 72/07, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Linguistics, Foreign Language
Keywords: Aptitude, Feedback, Individual differences, Japanese, Japanese as a second language, Reflexives, Second language learning
Publication Number: 3450858
ISBN: 978-1-124-60222-6
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