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Cognitive Insights into Discourse Markers and Second Language Acquisition

Edited By Iria Bello, Carolina Bernales, Maria Vittoria Calvi and Elena Landone

This volume employs a range of empirical methodologies – including eyetracking, direct observation, qualitative research and corpus analysis – to describe the use of discourse markers in second language acquisition. The variety of different approaches used by the contributors facilitates the observation of correlations between morphosyntactic, semantic and pragmatic features of discourse markers and enriches our understanding of the cognitive behaviour of L2 speakers, both in the understanding and production of texts. Some of the essays examine the acquisitional paths of discourse markers in instructional and natural contexts, with a particular focus on situations of language contact and social integration; others describe experimental studies that analyse the cognitive processing of discourse markers in L2 learners. All the contributions aim to offer new insights which will expand and develop existing theoretical claims about this area of study and open up avenues for further research.

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2 Processing causality in Spanish-speaking L2 English: An experimental approach to the study of therefore (Elisa Narváez García / Lourdes Torres)


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2 Processing causality in Spanish-speaking L2 English: An experimental approach to the study of therefore


Causal relations have been recognized to be among the most significant relations in the world (Mackie 1974; Kamlah 1991). Wilson and Sperber considered these relations to be ‘highly relevant’ and, therefore, to be expected that the mere juxtaposition of propositions is sometimes sufficient to interpret them as causally related (2012: 183, see 1).

(1) Peter left. Mary got angry.

(Taken from Wilson and Sperber 2012: 169)

An utterance such as (1) will very likely be interpreted not only as an addition/temporal relation, that is, readers will not only conceive them as two isolated facts in a timeline: 1) Peter left and 2) Mary got angry. Most likely they will see in Peter’s departure the reason behind Mary’s anger; in other words, they will causally link the two facts. This interpretation is known as implicit causality. It can be explained by the Causality-by-Default hypothesis proposed by Sanders (2005). According to this hypothesis, aiming at building the most informative representation possible, readers assume by default that discourse coherence is causal, and only consider other kinds of coherence relations when a causal reading is not possible (Sanders 2005). ← 39 | 40 →

Besides simple juxtaposition, in which case the causal interpretation will rely exclusively on the nature of the uttered propositions in combination with...

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