Dellar and Lexical Priming

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In a recent webinar (which I read about in a post by Leo Selivan) Hugh Dellar talked about colligation. I missed the webinar and I found Selivan’s report of it confusing, so I took a look at the slides Dellar used.  Early on in his presentation, Dellar quotes Hoey (2005, p.43)

The basic idea of colligation is that just as a lexical item may be primed to co-occur with another lexical item, so also it may be primed to occur in or with a particular grammatical function. Alternatively, it may be primed to avoid appearance in or co-occurrence with a particular grammatical function. 

I don’t know how Dellar explained Hoey’s use of the term “primed” in his webinar, but I understand priming to be based on the idea that each word we learn becomes associated with the contexts with which we repeatedly encounter it, so much so that we subconsciously expect and replicate these contexts when we hear and speak the words. The different types of information that the word is associated with are called its primings.

What does Hoey himself say? Hoey says that we get all our knowledge about words (their collocations, colligations, and so on) by subconsciously noticing everything that we have ever heard or read, and storing it in memory.

The process of subconsciously noticing is referred to as lexical priming. … Without realizing what we are doing, we all reproduce in our own speech and writing the language we have heard or read before. We use the words and phrases in the contexts in which we have heard them used, with the meanings we have subconsciously identified as belonging to them and employing the same grammar. The things we say are subconsciously influenced by what everyone has previously said to us (Hoey, 2009 – Lexical Priming)  

Hoey rejects Chomsky’s view of L1 acquisition and claims that children learn language starting from a blank slate and then building knowledge from subconsciously noticed connections between lexical items. All language learning (child L1 and adult SLA alike) is the result of repeated exposure to patterns of text, where the more the repetition, the more chance for subconscious noticing, and the better our knowledge of the language.

The weaknesses of this theory include the following:

  • Hoey does not explain the key construct of subconscious noticing;
  • he does not explain how the hundreds of thousands of patterns of words acquired through repeatedly encountering and using them are stored and retrieved;
  • he does not acknowledge any limitations in our ability to remember, process or retrieve this massive amount of linguistic information;
  • he does not reply to the argument that we can and do say things that we haven’t been trained to say and that we have never heard anybody else say, which contradicts the claim that what we say is determined by our history of priming.
  • while Hoey endorses Krashen’s explanation of SLA (it’s an unconscious process dependent on comprehensible input), Krashen’s Natural Order Hypothesis contradicts Hoey’s lexical priming theory, since, while the first claims that SLA involves the acquisition of grammatical structures in a predictable sequence, the second claims that grammatical structures are lexical patterns and that there is no order of acquisition.

These limitations in Hoey’s theory get no mention from Dellar, who, having previously modelled his lexical approach on Michael Lewis, now seems to have fully embraced Hoey’s lexical priming theory. Let’s look at how this theory compares to rival explanation. (I’m here making use of material I’ve used in previous posts about Dellar & Hoey.)

Interlanguage Grammar versus Lexical Priming

In the last 40 years, great progress has been made in developing a theory of SLA based on a cognitive view of learning. It started in 1972 with the publication of Selinker’s paper where he argues that the L2 learners have their own autonomous mental grammar which came to be known as interlanguage grammar, a grammatical system with its own internal organising principles, which may or may not be related to the L1 and the L2.

One of the first stages of this interlanguage to be identified was that for ESL questions. In a study of six Spanish students over a 10-month period, Cazden, Cancino, Rosansky and Schumann (1975) found that the subjects produced interrogative forms in a predictable sequence:

  1. Rising intonation (e.g., He works today?),
  2. Uninverted WH (e.g., What he (is) saying?),
  3. “Overinversion” (e.g., Do you know where is it?),
  4. Differentiation (e.g., Does she like where she lives?).

A later example is in Larsen-Freeman and Long (1991: 94). They pointed to research which suggested that learners from a variety of different L1 backgrounds go through the same four stages in acquiring English negation:

  1. External (e.g., No this one./No you playing here),
  2. Internal, pre-verbal (e.g., Juana no/don’t have job),
  3. Auxiliary + negative (e.g., I can’t play the guitar),
  4. Analysed don’t (e.g., She doesn’t drink alcohol.)

In developing a cognitive theory of SLA, the construct of interlanguage became central to the view of L2 learning as a process by which linguistic skills become automatic. Initial learning requires controlled processes, which require attention and time; with practice the linguistic skill requires less attention and becomes routinized, thus freeing up the controlled processes for application to new linguistic skills. SLA is thus seen as a process by which attention-demanding controlled processes become more automatic through practice, a process that results in the restructuring of the existing mental representation, the interlanguage.

So there are two rival theories of SLA on offer here: Hoey’s theory of lexical priming (supported by Dellar, Selivan and others) and Selinker’s theory of interlanguage (developed by Long, Robinson, Schmidt, Skehan, Pienemann and others). Dellar should resist giving the impression that Hoey’s theory is the definitive and unchallenged explanation of how we learn languages.

Errors and L1 priming

in his presentation Dellar says “All our students bring L1 primings” and gives these examples from Polish.

On chce zebym studiowal prawo.

Zimno mi.

Jak ona wyglada?

These L1 primings “colour L2”

He wants that I study Law.

It is cold to me.

How does she look?

Dellar says that these are not grammar errors, but rather “micro-grammatical problems” caused by a lack of awareness of how the words attach themselves to grammar. The solution Dellar offers to these problems is to provide learners with lots of examples of “correct colligation and co –text”.

He wants me to study Law.

My dad’s quite pushy. He wants me to study Business, but I’m not really sure that I want to.

It’s really cold today.  It’s freezing!  I’m freezing!

What does she look like?  Oh, she’s quite tall . . . long hair . . . quite good-looking, actually. Well, I think so anyway.

This kind of correction is, says Dellar, “hard work, but necessary work”. It ensures that “students are made aware of how the way they think the language works differs from how it really works.” Dellar concludes that

 Hoey has shown the real route to proficiency is sufficient exposure. Teachers can shortcut the priming process by providing high-reward input that condenses experience and saves time.

We may note how Hoey, not Krashen, gets the credit for showing that the real route to proficiency is sufficient exposure; how priming now explains learning; and how teaching must now concentrate on providing shortcuts to the primimg process.

To return to Dellar’s “micro-grammatical problems”, we are surely entitled to ask if what SLA researchers for 50 years have referred to as the phenomenon of L1 transfer is better understood as the phenomenon of L1 primings. Recall that Pit Corder argued in 1967 that learner errors were neither random nor best explained in terms of the learner’s L1; errors were indications of learners’ attempts to figure out an underlying rule-governed system.  Corder distinguished between errors and mistakes: mistakes are slips of the tongue and not systematic, whereas errors are indications of an as yet non-native-like, but nevertheless, systematic, rule-based grammar.  Dulay and Burt (1975) then claimed that fewer than 5% of errors were due to native language interference, and that errors were, as Corder suggested, in some sense systematic.  The morpheme studies of Brown in L1 (1973) led to studies in L2 which suggested that there was a natural order in the acquisition of English morphemes, regardless of L1.  This became known as the L1 = L2 Hypothesis, and further studies all pointed to systematic staged development in SLA.  The emerging cognitive paradigm of language learning perhaps received its full expression in Selinker’s (1972) paper which argues that the L2 learners have their own autonomous mental grammar (which came to be known, pace Selinker, as interlanguage (IL) grammar), a grammatical system with its own internal organising principles, which may or may not be related to the L1 and the L2.

All of this is contradicted by Dellar, who insists that L1 priming explains learner errors. 

Language development through L2 priming  versus processing models of SLA

Explaining L2 development as a matter of strengthening L2 primings between words contradicts the work of those using a processing model of SLA, and I’ll give just one example. McLaughlin (1990) uses the twin concepts of “Automaticity” and “Restructuring” to describe the cognitive processes involved in SLA. Automaticity occurs when an associative connection between a certain kind of input and some output pattern occurs.   Many typical greetings exchanges illustrate this:

Speaker 1: Morning.

Speaker 2: Morning. How are you?

Speaker 1: Fine, and you?

Speaker 2: Fine.

Since humans have a limited capacity for processing information, automatic routines free up more time for such processing. To process information one has to attend to, deal with, and organise new information.  The more information that can be handled routinely, automatically, the more attentional resources are freed up for new information.  Learning takes place by the transfer of information to long-term memory and is regulated by controlled processes which lay down the stepping stones for automatic processing.

The second concept, restructuring, refers to qualitative changes in the learner’s interlanguage as they move from stage to stage, not to the simple addition of new structural elements. These restructuring changes are, according to McLaughlin, often reflected in “U-shaped behaviour”, which refers to three stages of linguistic use:

  • Stage 1: correct utterance,
  • Stage 2: deviant utterance,
  • Stage 3: correct target-like usage.

In a study of French L1 speakers learning English, Lightbown (1983) found that, when acquiring the English “ing” form, her subjects passed through the three stages of U-shaped behaviour.  Lightbown argued that as the learners, who initially were only presented with the present progressive, took on new information – the present simple – they had to adjust their ideas about the “ing” form.  For a while they were confused and the use of “ing” became less frequent and less correct.

According to Dellar (folowing Hoey) this “restructuring” explanation is wrong: what’s actually happening is that the L2 primings are not getting enough support from “high-reward input”.

Conclusion

There are serious weaknesses in the lexical priming theory as a theory of SLA, and few reasons to think that it offers a better explanation of the phenomena studied by SLA scholars, including the phenomenon of L1 transfer, than processing theories which use the construct of interlanguage grammar. Even if there were, Dellar seems not to have grasped that his newly-adopted explanation of language learning and his long-established teaching methods contradict each other. If lexical priming is a subconcious process which explains language learning, then the sufficient condition for learning is exposure to language and opportunities to strengthen and extend lexical primings. All the corrective work that Dellar recommends, all that “hard but necessary work” to ensure that “students are made aware of how the way they think the language works differs from how it really works” is useless interference in a natural process involving the unconscious acquisition of lexical knowledge.

 

References

Cazden, C., Cancino, E., Rosansky, E. and Schumann, J. (1975) Second language acquisition sequences in children, adolescents and adults. Final report submitted to the National Institute of Education, Washington, D.C.

Corder, S. P. (1967) The significance of learners’ errors. International Review of Applied Linguistics 5, 161-9.

Dulay, H. and Burt, M. (1975) Creative construction in second language learning and teaching. In Burt, M and Dulay, H. (eds.), New directions in second language learning, teaching, and bilingual education. Washington, DC: TESOL, 21-32.

Hoey, M. (2005) Lexical Priming: A New Theory of Words and Language. London: Routledge.

Krashen, S. (1981) Second language acquisition and second language learning. Oxford: Pergamon.

Larsen-Freeman, D. and Long, M. H. (1991) An introduction to second language acquisition research. Harlow: Longman.

McLaughlin, B. (1990) “Conscious” versus “unconscious” learning. TESOL Quarterly 24, 617-634.

Selinker, L. (1972) Interlanguage.  International Review of Applied Linguistics 10, 209-231.

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16 thoughts on “Dellar and Lexical Priming

  1. Hoey’s just come up in my course and while I see what he’s saying, that we are just ‘used to’ seeing words/structures go together, it’s a bit thin gruel to suggest that we learn language by collocation alone. If that were the case, there would be no evidence of learner L2 interlanguage containing deviant collocation or colligation which also fails to abide by L1 rules in acquisition order studies. Where do these deviant structures come from? Not exposure from texts, as it’s deviant; therefore it’s internal. I’m not a believer in UG either but lexical priming seems to be more of a linguistic analysis tool/teaching tool being applied to SLA rather than SLA being applied to teaching.

    Here’s a blog post of Hugh’s webinar summarized by someone who did see it. https://hartlelearning.wordpress.com/2015/09/28/colligation-patterns-rules-and-elf/

    Thanks for helping my Moodle seminar with this!

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    • Hi Marc,

      Thanks for your comments and the link to the fuller report of Dellar’s webinar.

      I think Thom’s comments below give a good insight into where Hoey’s real interests lie.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Geoff,
    I am glad you pick up the questions that lexical priming poses.

    About the weak spots you list above:

    1. I think Hoey reached his conclusion about language acquisition by way of his studies in discourse analysis / corpus linguistics. His encounter with language, above all the dominant phenomena of collocations in language (p.7) made him look for a principle that would make sense of his findings: “The most appropriate psychological concept would seem to be that of priming”. He did not start with the concept priming that needed proof. He worked his way up through the study of concrete language samples and emerged at the other end looking for an explanation. To Hoey, then, priming is the mechanism that explains the qualities of language he detected when analyzing text. The key construct to be explained is explained in the pertinent literature. Hoey refers to Neely and Anderson and provides a brief summary of his “albeit tweaked” application thereof on pages 8 and 9. Hoey provides further references.

    I was looking for the text you quoted in order to prepare a reply:

    “The process of subconsciously noticing is referred to as lexical priming. … Without realizing what we are doing, we all reproduce in our own speech and writing the language we have heard or read before. We use the words and phrases in the contexts in which we have heard them used, with the meanings we have subconsciously identified as belonging to them and employing the same grammar. The things we say are subconsciously influenced by what everyone has previously said to us (Hoey, 2005, p. 147).”

    Apparently this is your paraphrase of what you think Hoey says. I checked Lexical Priming and I did not seem to find the term subconscious noticing. It seems that Hoey does not use the term. Also, I am not sure the page reference is correct. Maybe I got it wrong. You might want to clarify.

    I think the term subconscious noticing is not very fortunate. Noticing can suggest that a learner experiences awareness of learning. Certainly when teachers are encouraging their students to notice, they very much call attention to concrete language features. So subconscious noticing seems to be a contradiction in terms.

    2. Aspects of memory, storing, decay, retrieval, the interface between neural structures and mental structures (Smolensky in Baddeley, Human Memory, p.270) are far from being agreed upon. I would think that Hoey would decline the invitation to offer further insight to what the specialized literature provides.
    3. Hoey argues for an accumulative process that enables individuals to do certain things. I don’t think he states anywhere that priming is insensitive to decay, distortion, etc.
    4. I think Hoey does address creativity: “The concern here is to consider whether lexical priming can account not only for what is natural but also for what is possible” (153). Chapter 8 and 9 attempt to offer some ideas.
    5. Personally I am not very fond of Hoey backing Krashen. To me it seems that Krashen follows a Universal Grammar point of view and Hoey does not. The point of agreement is Krashen’s idea that language will evolve the way the grass grows with watering (input), i.e. without students’ conscious effort of learning grammatical features of the language. While priming, likewise does not depend on students’ conscious effort of learning grammatical features, the acquisition of language, as I think Hoey would see it, does not assume the a priori presence of structural information. For Krashen, language is made up of some mental structure, the grammar, which allows communication to unfold. For Hoey, language is a cultural artifact that exists in the environment and that leaves its mark on the brain. Language then occurs in the overlap of two structured phenomena– the brain and language as it exists among users.

    Regards,

    Tk.

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  3. Hi Thom,
    Thanks for this. I’ll reply properly later, but just to say here that I got the quote starting “The process of subconsciously noticing….” not from his 2005 book as I wrongly stated, but from an article that Hoey wrote later. In fact he wrote a few articles about his book, including one for the on-line MED magazine. The address is:
    http://www.macmillandictionaries.com/MED-Magazine/January2009/52-LA-LexicalPriming.htm
    In this article Hoey says “This process of subconsciously noticing is referred to as lexical priming.” I’ll dig out other articles, but rest assured that Hoey has said more than once that lexical priming is a subconscious process.

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    • Dear Geoff,
      Yes, I came across the page you point out and he does indeed use the term here. As stated, I think the term is poorly chosen. I guess some of it is a left over of Krashen’s monitor theory / acquisition vrs learning dichotomy. The discussion distracts from the main issue. What Krashen thinks to be the object of subconscious processing is the calling up of some sort of grammatical knowledge. Which begs the question. Other than that, there is very little room for drowsy students in a Krashenite classroom. He insists that “all they need” is comprehensible, and of late, compelling comprehensible input. To me, anything that is comprehensible and compelling CANNOT be subconscious. Rather than suggesting a dichotomy, and better suited for priming, there seems to be a range of states of awareness where students encounter language samples at certain intervals, with certain frequency, which leave behind memory traces, never stable, always changing, which then can become accessible for recall.

      I am looking forward to your reply.

      Regards,

      TK.

      Like

    • Hi again Thom,

      Woops! I posted the reply below 2 seconds before I saw your second comment, in reply to my correction about the citation.

      So let me deal with the 2nd reply first. I agree that the term subconscious noticing is poorly chosen, but I repeat: it’s what he wants to say. And I also agree that it’s a left over of Krashen’s acquisition vs learning dichotomy. But IMO, Krashen has it largely right, even tho his bundle of hypotheses use such hopeless constructs as to make the whole thing a circular argument. I think Krashen is right to say that SLA is mostly an implicit process of acquisition and that learners have a route which can’t be altered by teaching. It’s not so much that the object of subconscious processing is the calling up of some sort of grammatical knowledge, as that a mostly unconscious process of engaging in communicative exchanges and tasks drives interlanguage development.

      I agree that there is very little room for drowsy students in a Krashenite classroom, but I don’t agree that anything which is comprehensible and compelling can’t be subconscious.

      As for there seeming to be a range of states of awareness where students encounter language samples at certain intervals, with certain frequency, which leave behind memory traces, never stable, always changing, which then can become accessible for recall, that strikes me as being a sufficiently generalised statement where key elements are left undefined to allow me to say “You could be right about that.” 🙂

      Now for my earlier reply:

      I’m sure you’re right about how Hoey got to his theory of language learning. He’s absolutely marvellous at text analysis and I agree with so much that he’s said over the years about just how important collocation is to English. The problem is that he knows very little about theories of SLA, and gives the impression that he’s not really very interested in it anyway. Of course “subconscious noticing” sounds a bit like an oxymoron, but that’s exactly what Hoey wants to say priming consists of.

      My main aim in this post is to point out how Dellar has now adopted the “explanation” of priming so completely that L1 and L2 priming are the new glue that keeps his lexical approach together. Dellar treats priming as if it were already established as the new paradigm, and uses it to justify his insistent, on-going assertion that presenting and practicing frequently-occurring lexical chunks is the most important part of an EFL / ESL teacher’s job. Those of us (and I’m not suggesting that you’re one of this “us” Thom) who take a learner-centred approach, who see the need to involve learners in decisions about what and how to learn, who see the benefit of engaging learners in communicative exchanges where linguistic redundancy plays an important role; where focus on formS is part of the teacher’s job; where language is adapted to suit the different proficiency levels of the learners, and where lexical priming isn’t anybody’s primary concern, can only hope that teachers who are persuaded by Dellar’s approach won’t spend too much time plying their learners with “high-reward input”.

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      • I certainly will need to take a second look at “mostly unconscious process of engaging in communicative exchanges and tasks [that drive] interlanguage development”. It seems that you are rather optimistic about the concept interlanguage as a valuable theory for SLA. I am not knowledgeable enough to make a reasonable comment just now. I must admit that when I did my MA I was heavily influenced by the coming of age of Corpus Linguistics. Interlanguage seems to predate this and so does the Chomsky-an paradigm(s), and I must say, I was not very fond when I had to do the reading. I did not find the discourse very empirical. Still, I find the struggle for a sound SLA theory fascinating and a very needed undertaking in our profession (ELT).

        BTW, I met Hugh some years ago and he mentioned in passing Lexical Priming. This must have been the year the book came out. He mentioned to me that he thought the book will bring about a mild revolution. I guess, Hugh just now feels like talking about it.

        I’ll take a look at interlanguage.

        Best,

        tk.

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  4. Hi Geoff,

    Thank you for the mention – even if only as a writer of a confusing review 🙂 I’m sorry you found it confusing.

    Although your review is clear and easy-to-follow, using Hugh Dellar’s own words, it misses the point, I am afraid. Your analysis and rebuttal of Hugh’s (and Hoey’s) views make it sound like he claims that all errors are caused by L1 primings, whereas this is not true. Hugh attributed certain kind of mistakes to L1, specifically what he described as “microgrammatical problems” which can be perceived as grammatical but are, in fact, lexical, i.e. stemming from not knowing a word rather than a failure to apply grammar rules correctly. ‘Knowing a word’ is, of course, used here in the neo-Firthian sense of not merely knowing its meaning but what it collocates and colligates with, its semantic prosody, restrictions on its use etc.

    When learners say “*it’s depend” it does not mean that they have not mastered the third person singular -s because the same learners can produce “He lives and “she works” correctly in the next utterance. Seeing “*it’s depend” as a grammatical error would doom students to more hours of unnecessary grammar practice (FonFS) which (almost) does not contribute to the process of implicit language acquisition, as you acknowledge.

    As regards L1 transfer, more recent studies show that L1 accounts for a much larger proportion of lexical errors. Nesselhauf (2003) attributes more than 50% of learner errors in writing to L1, Laufer & Waldman (2011) come to the same conclusion.

    Finally, while you rightly point out certain weaknesses in Hoey’s theory and, as Thom pointed out above, Hoey’s backing of Krashen seems at odds with Hoey’s own views, I don’t see any contradiction between L1 transfer and L1 primings – one refers to the process and the other to the product. When transfer occurs, learners transfer L1 primings. For example, when learners produce “*Sorry I lated” it may be a sign of transferring an L1 priming to L2. In many languages “late” is a verb, often used in the past to express the notion of not coming on time, and therefore learners are primed to use it as such, whereas the same meaning is realized in English by means of “Sorry I am late” – using the adjective “late” and the present tense. Once again, the teaching practice of decoupling of grammar and vocabulary is to blame for these kinds of errors.

    I think this is the longest comment I’ve ever left on anyone’s blog – perhaps I should just turn it into a post of my own 🙂

    L

    Like

    • Hi Leo,

      Thanks for your nice long comment. I’m a bit busy right now, but I’ll certainly get back to you on this (as we say 🙂 ) soon.

      Like

    • Wouldn’t ‘seeing “it’s depend” as a grammatical error’ only ‘doom students to more hours of unnecessary grammar practice’ in the case that the students’ instructor supposed (wrongly, as I think everyone interested enough to have read this far agrees) that such hours so joylessly spent is an appropriate corrective response to a grammatical error? It’s surely perfectly possible to regard it as a grammatical error (not, by the way, that I do, necessarily) without regarding such (almost) useless measures as the proper remedy.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Leo,

      I didn’t suggest that all learner errors are caused by L1 interference; I suggested that Dellar, following Hoey, uses the ill-defined construct of L1 primings to explain a phenomenon referred to in much of the SLA literature as L1 transfer.

      Your and Dellar’s view, folowing Hoey, is that learner errors such as “* it’s depend” and “* Sorry I lated” are best seen as lexical problems which stem from not knowing a word (in Hoey’s full sense of “knowing” a word), rather than from a failure to apply grammar rules correctly. With regard to L1 transfer, you say that learners transfer L1 primings. For example, “if a learner says “*Sorry I lated” it may be a sign of transferring an L1 priming to L2. In many languages “late” is a verb, often used in the past to express the notion of not coming on time, and therefore learners are primed to use it as such, whereas the same meaning is realized in English by means of “Sorry I am late” – using the adjective “late” and the present tense. Once again, the teaching practice of decoupling of grammar and vocabulary is to blame for these kinds of errors.”

      First, both you and Dellar use the construct of “L1 primings” without defining it or explaining how it works. What is “L1 priming”? Does it only refer to mistakes caused by L1 transfer, or can there be “Positive L1 priming”? Does it only refer to words? Does it include false friends? Is “I bought this book in the library” (bookshop) an example of L1 priming? Is “He had chance!” (He was lucky!) an example of L1 priming? What about “You made a great job” (You did a great job)? And what about “A principle of the EU is freedom of mobility” (freedom of movement)? L1 transfer is normally seen as involving a range of issues, including such things as lack of grammatical control, wrong lexical choice, mixed idioms, and wrong meanings. After you’ve told us what L1 priming is and how it works, perhaps you can tell us what L1 priming does and doesn’t cover.

      Secondly, the term L1 priming as used by Dellar seems to be just a lexicalised version of Lado’s and Fries´ Contrastive Analysis (CA) approach. CA constructs a structural ‘picture’ of a language and compares it with the structural ‘picture’ of another language. Through a process of ‘mapping’ one system onto another, similarities and differences are identified which help determine problems that a learner of the particular L2 will face. Structurally different areas of the L1 and the target L2 will result in interference, or “transfer”. Dellar (more crudely than Hoey) seems to do the same kind of CA, but based on lexis instead of grammar.

      As I argued in the main post, priming theory in general assumes a behaviourist view of language learning, and the account of L1 priming you give in your comment does the same: L1 primings seem to refer to the subconscious use of old behaviour in new learning situations. In contrast, the theory of interlanguage development suggests that errors are evidence of a dynamic, continuous process of hypothesis formulation and reformulation in the construction of an interlanguage or “transitional competence.” Various taxonomies have been devised to account for certain types of error (e.g. Dulay and Burt 1974); it’s been suggested that spoken and written texts produce different kinds of errors, that there are differences between grammatical and lexical errors, that it’s possible to construct a gradation of serious and less serious errors, and so on.

      The important thing is that the theory of lexical priming and the theory of interlanguage development contradict each other so at least one of them is wrong. A cognitive theory of SLA sees interlanguage development as a process which is internally consistent, has many qualities of a natural language, and which is in direct opposition to a view of language learning as a system of habit formation. Those who take this view accept that learner makes selective use of L1 knowledge, but say that the process of selection, and the extent to which it is conscious or unconscious, is unclear.

      Finally, let me say that your claim that “the teaching practice of decoupling of grammar and vocabulary is to blame for these kinds of errors” strikes me as preposterous.

      Anyway, thanks for taking the trouble to write such a long reply.

      Like

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