Attentional processing of different types of written L2 input and its relationship with learners' working memory capacity

Indrarathne, Bimali (2016) Attentional processing of different types of written L2 input and its relationship with learners' working memory capacity. PhD thesis, UNSPECIFIED.

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It is widely accepted that sufficient target language input is necessary for successful L2 learning. However, the type and the amount of input as well as several cognitive mechanisms play an important role in input processing. The present study investigated how different cognitive mechanisms are influential in processing different types of input. The study was conducted with 100 undergraduate L2 learners of English in Sri Lanka. Seven examples each of the target construction (causative had) were embedded in three short stories that the participants read on three occasions under four different input conditions: two implicit and two explicit input conditions. The implicit conditions were input flood and textual enhancement (TE). In both explicit conditions learners were asked to pay attention to the highlighted target examples. In addition, the participants in one of the explicit input conditions were provided with an explicit explanation of the target construction. Improvement on the knowledge of the target construction was measured by a pre/post-test design, which included a sentence reconstruction (SR) and a grammaticality judgment (GJ) task. The four experimental conditions contained 20 participants each and the rest were in the control condition. In terms of cognitive mechanisms, the study investigated how attention paid to target examples in these different input conditions influences learning gains using two eye-tracking measurements: total fixation duration (TFD) and the difference between observed and expected TFD. In addition, the involvement of working memory (WM) in facilitating the regulation of attentional resources was studied based on four WM tests that measured the capacity of the PSTM and the functions of the central executive (CE). In order to analyse the relationship between learners’ awareness of the target construction and their performance, a questionnaire was administered. The eye-tracking data revealed that explicit input conditions could draw attention of the learners more successfully to the target examples than the implicit input conditions. In line with this finding, the pre/post-test data analysis highlighted that the learners in explicit conditions could develop both the explicit and the implicit knowledge of the target construction while the learners in one of the implicit conditions (TE) could only develop the implicit knowledge. The results also showed that those with a high WM capacity are able to direct their attention to the target constructions more successfully and consequently they could develop both explicit and implicit knowledge of the target construction. The study indicated that gains of either explicit or implicit knowledge are independent of learners being aware of the target syntactic construction. A free writing task administered as a part of the pre/post-tests highlighted that only a few learners were able to use the target construction in a meaningful communicative situation after the experiment.

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Thesis (PhD)
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02 Nov 2016 10:50
Last Modified:
12 Sep 2023 00:20