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Investigating Linguistic Knowledge of a Second Language


Runhan Zhang

This book investigates several important issues revolving around the psycholinguistic modelling of language proficiency in terms of L2 linguistic knowledge, which is a topic of considerable interest and importance in SLA theories and language testing practice. Four tests including the Elicited Imitation Test, Timed Grammaticality Judgment Test, Untimed Grammaticality Judgment Test and Metalinguistic Knowledge Test are employed to examine the extent to which they provide separate measures of Chinese third-year university students’ L2 lingusitic knowledge. The role of four psychological factors – language analytic ability, language learning motivation, language anxiety and learner beliefs – in learners’ L2 linguistic knowledge is also explored.
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2. Key concepts


2. Key concepts

This section begins with the role of consciousness in L2 learning which is considered important to SLA and unavoidable in any discussion of implicit and explicit knowledge (Schmidt, 1990, 1994, 1995). Then it deals with implicit and explicit learning. It moves on to investigating L2 learners’ knowledge systems as implicit and explicit knowledge by defining the two types of knowledge and examining their disassociation by reviewing the neurological evidence.

The role of consciousness is of great importance in discussing the distinction between “implicit” and “explicit” learning, and current debate in SLA research is also all centered on its role in L2 development (Robinson, 1996). Krashen (1981) distinguished “acquisition” and “learning”. According to his opinion, “acquisition” is a subconscious process, while “learning” is a conscious process. He also claimed that conscious knowledge cannot become unconscious linguistic knowledge. However, he failed to provide adequate definitions of what he meant by ‘subconscious’ and “conscious’ and “provided no way of independently determining whether a given process involves acquisition or learning” (McLaughlin, 1979: 21). Some other researchers suggested abandoning the issue of consciousness in a theory of language acquisition (McLaughlin, Rossman & Mcleod, 1983), arguing that “consciousness’ is too ambiguous to be of any use (McLaughlin, 1990). In contrast to McLaughlin’s point of view, Schmidt (1990, 1994, 2001) considered that consciousness is an essential construct if it is carefully deconstructed and defined. He proposed four senses of consciousness. Schmidt’s theory of consciousness has had an enormous influence on...

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