Animacy, Frequency and Working Memory Effects in the Acquisition of a Noun-Adjective Agreement Pattern in L2 under Incidental Learning Conditions

  •  Nadiia Denhovska    


Animacy is recognized as an important feature in cognition and language processing. The present paper reports the results of an experiment that investigated the effects of animacy of the head noun (animate, denoting animals-epicenes, and inanimate, denoting non-living objects) and working memory on the learning of a noun-adjective agreement pattern in Russian. Participants were 60 novice learners whose L1 did not mark grammatical gender. The between-subjects design manipulated token frequency (high vs. low) under incidental learning conditions. No animacy effect was found in either learning condition. Working memory was a significant factor in both incidental learning conditions, and it explained a greater amount of variance in the high token frequency condition where accuracy was also significantly higher than in the low token condition. The results have implications for incidental learning research and language learning practices, specifically how different factors contribute to the acquisition of L2 grammatical knowledge.

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