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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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4 Processing focus operators and pragmatic scales: An eye-tracking study on information processing in English L2 (Iria Bello Viruega / Carolina Bernales)


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4 Processing focus operators and pragmatic scales: An eye-tracking study on information processing in English L2

Introduction1 2

One of the basic principles in pragmatics and psycholinguistics states that communication takes place with the help of a series of inferential processes in which speakers blend together external input − the linguistic code in the form of graphic or acoustic stimuli − and internal input − linguistic information, word knowledge, and their own experience − to create a mental representation of the text and recover the communicated assumption (Van Dijk and Kintsch 1983). But these processes are neither automatic nor perfect. Languages have specific devices to help minimize these cognitive efforts. Focus operators are one of those devices. They are invariable linguistic units that guide the inferences made in communication according to their different semantic, morphosyntactic and pragmatic properties thus leading the reader (or hearer) to expected effects and saving processing effort (Blakemore 1987; Sperber and Wilson 1995, 2002; Levinson 2000; Wilson and Sperber 2002). This is possible because not all linguistic units contribute in the same way to information processing. Hence, in (1)

(1) Cynthia and Antoine learn Spanish, English, even Chinese. ← 93 | 94 →

nouns and verbs provide lexical information with propositional content that enable the creation of mental representations and affect the truth conditions of the utterances in which they occur. They include conceptual information that is intuitively related to people and systems that...

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