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Poster D33

Working memory and proficiency in adult second language neurocognitive processing: An ERP study

Poster Session D - Monday, April 15, 2024, 8:00 – 10:00 am EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Ana Rodriguez Gallego1 (, Alexis Berles2, Marina Ridchenko3, Kara Morgan-Short4; 1University of Illinois Chicago

Working memory (WM) has been shown to account for variability in adult second/additional language (L2) learning (Gabriele et al., 2021). However, research findings for the role that WM may play in neurocognitive L2 processing, in conjunction with the role of L2 proficiency, are mixed. Thus, our study employs event-related potentials (ERPs) to examine whether and how WM and proficiency modulate L2 learners’ brain signatures in (morpho)syntactic processing. Electroencephalograms were recorded while intermediate L2 learners of Spanish (N = 9) completed a grammaticality judgment task including four experimental conditions: phrase structure (PS), subject-verb agreement (SV), noun-phrase number and gender agreement (NPn, NPg). Participants also completed complex span WM tasks (operation, reading, and symmetry) and aural and written tasks of Spanish proficiency. Preliminary ERP analyses showed apparent P600 effects for NPn and NPg, whereas no clear effects were elicited for PS or SV, although small positivities suggest individual variation. Correlation analyses, considering effect size, evidenced a medium, negative correlation between WM and the P600 magnitude for NPn (r = -.471) and a large, positive correlation between proficiency and the P600 magnitude for NPn (r = .829). All other rs < .263. These preliminary results suggest that larger P600 effects may be associated with higher proficiency and less reliance on WM for NPn agreement, the structure closest to learners’ L1. Ongoing data collection and analyses will reveal whether these associations are maintained, whether similar associations are found across linguistic conditions, and whether WM and proficiency interact to modulate the neurocognition of L2 processing.

Topic Area: LANGUAGE: Other


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