Lecture by Nick Ellis, May 4, 2005

At the Interface: Dynamic Interactions of Explicit and Implicit Language Knowledge

by Nick Ellis, Professor of Psychology, Research Scientist, English Language Institution, University of Michigan

Much of language learning is done implicitly form naturalistic usage.  What then, if any, are the roles of explicit instruction and explicit learning in second language acquisition?  The ‘interface question’ has lain at the heart of applied linguistic theory for 30 years or more.  It affects the ways we approach language acquisition, the ways we interact with learners, and whether and how we plan instruction.  This paper considers the interface question from a cognitive neuroscience perspective.  Implicit and explicit knowledge are dissociable but nevertheless, they are cooperative.  It reviews various psychological and neurobiological processes by which explicit knowledge of form-meaning associations impacts upon implicit language learning.  The interface dynamic:  it happens transiently during conscious processing, but the influence uponimplicit cognition endures thereafter.  The primary conscious involvement in SLA is the explicit learning involved in the initial registration of patter recognizers for constructions that are then tuned and integrated into the system by implicit learning during subsequent input processing.  Neural systems is in the hippocampus then bind these disparate cortical representations into unitary episodic representations.  These are the mechanisms by which Schmidt’s “noticing” helps solve Quine’s problem of referential indeterminacy.  Explicit memories can also guide the conscious building of novel linguistic utterances using processes of analogy.  Formulate, slot-and-frame patterns, drills, and declarative pedagogical grammar rules all contribute to the conscious creation of utterances whose subsequent usage promotes implicit learning and psycholinguistic data ready for explicit analysis. Other processes of acquisition from output include differentiation, analysis, and preemption.  These processes of conscious construction in working memory underpin relationships between individual differences in working memory capacities and language learning aptitude.

Friday, May 4, 2005
B4 Dwinell Hall