Sabourin (2009). Neuroimaging and research into second language acquisition.

Sabourin, L. (2009). Neuroimaging and research into second language acquisition. Second Language Research, 25(1), 5–11.

“… second language (L2) researchers extending their research paradigms to include neuroimaging techniques (resulting in some technically naive questions concerning linguistic issues). … One further thing to take note of is the potential of neuroimaging research within second language acquisition (SLA) to contribute to issues pertaining to the plasticity of the adult brain and to general issues of relevance to the field of cognitive neuroscience.” (p 5)

“In the traditional field of SLA there are numerous issues that need to be considered when performing and evaluating research. Some of the major ones include the role of proficiency, age of acquisition (or onset), ultimate attainment, language transfer, method of acquisition, aptitude, motivation, and many others. These same issues also play a role when looking at the brain processes involved in SLA.” (p 6)

“… neuroimaging data will be able to tell us whether first language (L1) and adult second language (L2) acquisition occur in the same manner (are the same neural substrates used and are they used in the same manner and to the same extent?).” (p 7)

“… techniques that are sensitive [page break] to the blood flow in the brain (e.g. fMRI) provide us with information about where in the brain language processing is going on, while techniques that can provide us with millisecond accuracy about when language is processed make use of electrical and magnetic fields generated by the neurons in the brain; e.g. electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) (for a more complete review discussing these different techniques, see Stowe and Sabourin, 2005).” (p 7-8)

“Two of these techniques — ERPs and fMRI — are often used in both language processing studies in general and to investigate SLA in particular.” (p 9)

Selected References

  • Stowe, L.A. and Sabourin, L. 2005: Imaging the processing of a second language: effects of maturation and proficiency on the neural processes involved. International Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching 43, 329–53.
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