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Reviewed by:
  • Using Priming Methods in Second Language Research
  • R.F.I. Meuter
McDonough, Kim, & Trofimovich, Pavel. (2009). Using Priming Methods in Second Language Research. New York: Routledge. Pp. 240, CAN$108.00 (cloth), CAN$35.96 (paper), CAN$120.00 (e-book).

McDonough and Trofimovich provide a comprehensive and accessible overview of priming methodology and its application in second language (L2) research that is solidly based in theory and has a level of methodological detail that easily allows implementation of the methods. As anyone who has applied a new methodology will attest, the devil is in determining its advantages, disadvantages, and potential pitfalls, while keeping in mind both the measures to be used in collecting data and the data analyses to be performed. This book addresses all these concerns. It does not provide an exhaustive review of priming methods (nor is that its objective) but rather presents an unambiguous roadmap for their application and demonstrates the insights that can be gained.

The book comprises five chapters, each of which can stand alone. Chapter 1 gives a general introduction, chapters 2-4 each review one priming paradigm (auditory, semantic, and syntactic priming, respectively), and chapter 5 focuses on recommended statistical approaches. In chapters 2-4, the authors discuss the priming paradigm under consideration as implemented in first language (L1) processing and acquisition research, then address its applications to L2 research. The overview of the commonly implemented tasks encompasses a detailed discussion of materials, software for the presentation of stimuli, experimental design, and further applications to L2-related areas of enquiry. McDonough and Trofimovich incorporate extracts of representative published studies, including descriptions of experimental design and data extracts, to illustrate how the results are interpreted. These well-placed examples facilitate the understanding of the paradigms and associated experimental tasks. For each priming method, the authors provide explicit guidance to enable selection of the most appropriate task, taking into account both considerations of methodology and the [End Page 759] research question. All chapters conclude with questions and suggestions for learning activities. These activities are designed to prompt further reflection on how priming methods could potentially be applied to a broader range of L2 research questions. The appendix contains details of the software packages used to implement stimulus presentation. While all priming terms are defined, linguistic terms are not. Consequently, the book is somewhat less accessible to those who want to move into L2 research.

Further to providing a general overview of priming methods, chapter 1 addresses their ecological validity, an important consideration with any laboratory-based experimental technique. It is good to see the issue discussed here. McDonough and Trofimovich review several L2 domains where priming methods can be implemented (e.g., models of speech production and comprehension, skill acquisition), including what their implementation may reveal about the acquisition of language and the representation of linguistic knowledge.

Chapter 2 provides an excellent overview of the role of auditory priming in the acquisition of the spoken lexicon. The authors emphasize the importance of using experimental manipulation (e.g., focusing listeners' attention on pitch or meaning) to shed light on the role of auditory priming in L2 acquisition. The importance of collecting baseline performance and appropriately selecting test materials, for example, is thoroughly discussed. Summary tables detail the manipulations typically applied, including adding noise to and filtering auditory stimuli to ensure equal baseline performance. The level of detail provided here and elsewhere in the book is invaluable for student and researcher alike, especially for those who are new to the methodology. In chapter 3, the authors focus on semantic priming, emphasizing its importance in revealing the (co-)organization of the L1 and L2 lexicons. McDonough and Trofimovich advise on the best ways to implement various tasks to assess semantic priming within and between languages. Summary tables detail commonly used stimulus onset asynchronies and the semantic relationships typically evaluated (both within and across languages), as well as studies that use masking techniques. Chapter 4 addresses the use of syntactic (structural) priming in L1 research and its relevance to the L2 learning context, both as regards the organization of syntactic information within and across languages and with respect to the extent and scope of L2 syntactic...


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