What the eyes don't see, the mind won't learn: Investigating the role of salience in the initial processing of morphology in SLA

Project Details


The cognitive mechanisms of attention and awareness are believed
to play a crucial role in the process of second language acquisition
(SLA) but little is known about their exact nature and role. Many
factors have been proposed to influence a learner’s attention to and
awareness of new linguistic forms in a second language (L2), some
of which are learner- or context-based and some of which are
inherent to the form itself. The latter determine the form’s salience.
Many researchers believe the salience of a linguistic form in an L2
critically determines its learning difficulty but little research has
investigated this directly and systematically. The present research
aims to do just that, by analyzing the eye movements of L2 learners
when they encounter new grammatical forms (articles, suffixes) of
different types and degrees of saliency while reading texts in a semiartificial language called Englishti. These eye movement reveal how
the salience of the form interacts with the attention that learners
allocate to it. A questionnaire probes into the level of awareness that
learners have of the new form and its meaning while reading.
Through a series of experiments that together consider the isolated
and interactional effects of various types of salience in combination
with learner- and context-specific variables, we expect to develop a
more robust understanding of the nature and role of salience in SLA
and how this can be applied to improve real-world language learning.
Effective start/end date1/11/2131/10/25


  • SLA
  • salience
  • attention and awareness

Flemish discipline codes in use since 2023

  • Cognitive processes
  • Learning and behaviour
  • Grammar
  • Psycholinguistics and neurolinguistics
  • Language acquisition


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