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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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3 Pragmatic processing in second language: What can focus operators tell us about cognitive performance in L2? (Olga Ivanova / Iria Bello Viruega)


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3 Pragmatic processing in second language: What can focus operators tell us about cognitive performance in L2?


In cognitive psycholinguistics, there is no uniform position on whether non-native speakers are able to process second language (L2) in the same way as native speakers do. The debate resolves around the ability of non-native speakers, specifically those with high proficiency in L2, to develop native-like competence for processing a second language (Jackson and van Hell 2011: 195). In this respect, researchers have focused on language processing at different levels, including phonetics, morphology, semantics, syntax and pragmatics.

Some studies have proven that at certain levels of L2 language proficiency (normally, high proficiency or native-like proficiency), non-native speakers are similar to L1 speakers not only in expressive output, but also in cognitive performance and neuronal response (Rossi, Gugler, Friederici, and Hahne 2006; Sabourin and Stowe 2008; Dudschig, de la Vega, and Kaup 2015). However, many other studies have shown that L2 language processing is far from L1 language processing, even in nearly bilingual speakers, as L2 processing presupposes more complexity for the speaker than the same process in L1 (Foucart, Garcia, Ayguasanosa, Thierry, Martin and Costa 2015: 291). In this sense, the Critical Period Hypothesis argues that maturational changes in the brain, which occur after the biological time lapse open to language acquisition, convey discontinuity in neurocognitive structure for this ability (Hopp 2010: 901) and, hence,...

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