Emma Marsden, Gerry Altmann, Michelle St Claire
September 1, 2013
There have been several calls to adopt more implicit techniques for investigating how input is processed by second language (L2) learners. This study tested for aural repetition priming using a lexical decision test to establish whether a French verb inflection ( -ons ) can be primed amongst beginner classroom learners of L2 French during activities that broadly reflected two types of aural instructional activities. Fifty one school learners of French were randomly assigned either to an exposure activity which directed their attention to the target inflection or to an activity in which they were asked to try to understand sentences which contained the target inflection. The input was designed to simulate learning situations in which learners find aural comprehension effortful. All participants then did a lexical decision test, to measure the activation of representations of the French verb inflection during the exposure conditions. The results from this preliminary study indicated that greater priming effects followed the instructional activity that focused attention on the inflection than the activity that focused attention on sentence meaning. This is compatible with acoustic word priming research that suggests an orientation to meaning inhibits priming for some learners, and also with pedagogical research that suggests that focusing learners' attention to some features of the input is helpful. Our findings in the aural domain seem to run counter to recent research suggesting that regardless of the orientation of attention during training, orthographic representations of suffixes can be primed during visual word recognition. Future applications of this technique for investigating the allocation of attention in L2 input processing are discussed.