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Reviewed by:
  • Applying Priming Methods to L2 Learning, Teaching and Research: Insights from Psycholinguistics
  • Victoria A. Murphy
P. Trofimovich & K. McDonough (Eds.) (2011). Applying Priming Methods to L2 Learning, Teaching and Research: Insights from Psycholinguistics. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Pp. 254, £23.82 (paper).

Priming is an important cognitive phenomenon that helps us better understand the nature of the cognitive processes that underlie various aspects of human behaviour. Priming in language research is of particular interest for researchers who look inside the 'black box' in non-invasive ways. Trofimovich and McDonough's volume presents a collection of chapters that are related through the use of priming as a method for better understanding various aspects of second language (L2) acquisition in adult L2 learners, the aim of which is to present specific exemplars of research paradigms that are associated with using priming as a research tool to a much wider audience, all of which focus on some aspect of L2 learning.

Part One of the volume, consisting of five chapters, focuses on illustrating how priming research can be used to investigate different aspects of L2 learning. The first three chapters focus on specific aspects of either L2 vocabulary learning (Altarriba & Knickerbocker; Barcroft, Sommers, & Sunderman) or third language (L3) vocabulary learning (Williams & Cheung). These three chapters use priming as an experimental method to enable researchers to tap into cognitive processes or gain insight into the cognitive organization of lexical information. The final chapter in Part One (McDonough) departs from issues of lexis and asks whether collaborative syntactic priming activities in the L2 classroom can facilitate L2 learners' subsequent production of whquestions and presents research that is directly situated within the context of the L2 classroom, showing how priming activities during the learning tasks themselves can be an important influence in L2 learning.

Part Two of the volume consists of four chapters that illustrate some innovative use of priming methodologies in addressing questions underlying a range of aspects of L2 learning. Segalowitz, Lacroix, and Job present a fascinating chapter on a phenomenon called attentional blink; Leeser, Brandl, and Weissglass use online methods to tap into participants' sensitivity to grammaticality violations; and Hu and Jiang use a cross modal paradigm to investigate how L2 learners integrate semantic information in listening tasks. The final chapter in this section (Sunderman) uses a false memory paradigm to investigate conceptual mediation, showing differences between the L1 and L2 in the number of false items recalled and, interestingly, proficiency is a mediating factor. [End Page 241]

The editors' final concluding chapter restates the aim to 'bridge the gap between experimental psychology and L2 learning and teaching research' (p. 241). This volume does exactly that and does it at a very high standard. Each individual contribution is interesting, well-written, and informative and the volume as a whole presents an excellent overview of how one particular paradigm (priming) can be used to investigate a wide range of phenomena of interest and relevance to L2 learning and teaching research. Notably, each chapter ends with some discussion on pedagogical implications, ensuring that the empirical evidence presented in each chapter is directly connected to issues of note in the L2 classroom. Some psycholinguistic research can be dense and a non-specialist audience can sometimes have difficulty identifying its relevance. The relevance of this particular aspect of psycholinguistic research (priming) shines through this volume showing that theoretically and empirically important work of interest is relevant to more applied concerns and is indeed accessible to a wider audience who may be less familiar with these psycholinguistic approaches. The only gap in the volume concerns the nature of the participants in each of the contributing chapters. The research reported in this volume is entirely focused on adult L2 learners, with no mention of children who are L2 learners. To an increasing degree, children are being taught an L2 in primary school years and therefore the insights gleaned from the studies reported in this review and other studies like these would be of significant interest. Undoubtedly the lack of focus on children who are L2 learners reflects the fact that comparatively less research in the psycholinguistic domain has used priming as a method of investigating developing linguistic...


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