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  • Implicit and explicit language learning: Conditions, processes, and knowledge in SLA and bilingualism
  • Jasone Cenoz
Implicit and explicit language learning: Conditions, processes, and knowledge in SLA and bilingualism. Ed. by Cristina Sanz and Ronald P. Leow. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2011. Pp. 229. ISBN 9781589017290. $49.95.

This volume is a collection of chapters based on the papers presented at the 2009 Georgetown University Round Table on Language and Linguistics (GURT 2009). The theme of the conference was 'Explicit & implicit conditions, processes, and knowledge in SLA & bilingualism'. The collection aims to provide 'a deep and broad view of the topics of interest to those working on the conditions, processes and knowledge that take explicit/implicit as modifiers in SLA and bilingualism' (6). The volume shows the different ways to understand implicit/explicit conditions, processes, and knowledge in the multidisciplinary fields of SLA and bilingualism.

In Ch.1, the editors, Cristina Sanz and Ronald P. Leow, explain the origin of the volume and summarize each of the chapters. The rest of the volume is divided into four parts: 'Theory' (Part 1), 'Methodological issues and empirical research on awareness, pedagogical contexts, and individual differences in SLA' (Part 2), 'Empirical research on L2 phonology' (Part 3), and 'Empirical studies on key issues in bilingualism:Aging, third language, and language separation' (Part 4). [End Page 442]

Part 1 contains four of the five plenary lectures delivered at the conference. The topics of the four chapters are not strongly connected to each other, and they address theoretical as well as empirical issues. In Ch. 2, 'Stubborn syntax: How it resists explicit teaching and learning', BILL VANPATTEN relates implicit/explicit knowledge to the acquisition of syntax in a second language. VanPatten narrows down the concept of syntax to 'those properties of language related to and derived from formal and abstract features of a grammar' (9). His main point is that syntax cannot be learned in an explicit way and cannot be manipulated externally. The development of syntax in a second language is the result of the interaction of input and universal grammar. VanPatten thinks that SLA research should focus on identifying the aspects of language that can be influenced by explicit learning as compared to those that are resistant to instruction. ARTHUR S. REBER's contribution, 'An epitaph for grammar:An abridged history' (Ch. 3), mentions the implicit/explicit distinction but adopts a broader perspective to discuss a general approach to language. Reber is very critical of Noam Chomsky's model of universal grammar. He claims that '[t]his model is almost certainly wrong in virtually every possible way' (24). Alternatively, he views language as one of the ways in which humans communicate, highlighting the importance of pragmatic and functional elements. In Ch. 4, 'Implicit and explicit SLA and their interface', NICK C. ELLIS analyzes the differences between implicit and explicit knowledge and the ways they interact. This interaction is explained by referring to the different positions along the noninterface-strong interface continuum. Then, Ellis explains the different roles of implicit/explicit learning in first and second language acquisition. ELLEN BIALYSTOK's chapter, 'How analysis and control lead to advantages and disadvantages in bilingual processing' (Ch. 5), analyzes the different results obtained by bilingual speakers in tasks assessing executive control and lexical access. She explains that in contrast to the tasks measuring control, the primary component for lexical retrieval is representation. Bilinguals usually perform better than monolinguals in tasks that require executive control, but they are not as fast as monolinguals in tasks based on lexical retrieval. Bialystok highlights the interactions between these two components. In sum, this section of the volume approaches theoretical and empirical issues from different perspectives, including more general linguistic approaches (Reber), psycholinguistic approaches to bilingualism (Bialystok) and SLA (Ellis), and the more specific SLA topic of the effect of instruction (VanPatten).

Part 2 has six chapters. In Ch. 6, 'Getting a grip on the slippery construct of awareness: Toward a finer-grained methodological perspective', RONALD P. LEOW, ELLEN JOHNSON, and GERMÁN ZÁRATE-SÁNDEZ carry out a methodological review of the...


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