Annual Graduate Student Symposium

The SLATE Program is VERY PLEASED to announce that the Annual Second Language Acquisition and Teacher Education (SLATE) Graduate Research Symposium will RESUME!

The 2022 Research Symposium will be held Friday, May 6, in the Lucy B. Ellis Lounge of the Foreign Language Building, FROM 11:00 AM - 2:00 PM.

(Lunch will be served to attendees.)


Dr. Iva Ivanova (University of Texas-El Paso)

Invited Speaker
Dr. Iva Ivanova, University of Texas-El Paso

Title & Abstract: 

Bilingual language control, or how bilinguals manage to stick to one language error-free

Bilinguals are mental jugglers, and skilled ones, too: They easily switch languages when they want to but accurately keep to the same language when their other language may not be understood. To avoid saying something in the wrong language by mistake, bilinguals need to engage language control mechanisms (in the most widely accepted view, inhibition of the non-target language: Green, 1998). Understanding language control is necessary to understand the potential sources of the widely-discussed bilingual mental and neural adaptations (aka “the bilingual advantage”), but currently there are a lot of open questions. In this talk, I will examine whether language control mechanisms are specific to bilinguals or are wider-application mechanisms for interference resolution; whether language control is applied only once after a language switch or all the time; and whether it is limited to lexico-semantic information or also functions over structural representations. Finally, I will present work showing for the first time how language control manifests in spontaneous connected speech, and will discuss how such work can help constrain theories of bilingual “mental juggling”.



Dr. Chilin Shih (University of Illinois, Department of Linguistics)


Invited Speaker

Bootstrapping an Adaptive Training Program for Chinese Tone Acquisition


An adult second language learner often starts the acquisition process by borrowing the consonants and vowels inventory of their native language. This strategy is not always available for the acquisition of lexical tones for many languages in the world don't have a lexical tone inventory. Furthermore,  the use of sentence-level prosody may interfere with the learning of tones. Thus, an effective tone training program will be beneficial to learners.  An adaptive program is ideal, for it can adjust to each learner's level and can be administered online. In this talk, I will discuss the design considerations for building an adaptive tone training program. 

The most challenging task in building an adaptive system is to construct an item bank, and rank each item in the data bank by a difficulty level.  The standard measurement of difficulty level is not applicable for the evaluation of monosyllabic sound files where each one has the same level of textual complexity. We thus bootstrap the system with speech recorded at different talker-to-listener distances to get initial scores of the items and then update the scores once the system is implemented and students' responses are available for item analysis. We will also discuss the mathematical representation of tones that can capture production variations, and explore the reasons that lead to the perceptual difficulty of some of the lexical tone recordings.




Anyone with an interest in SLA/Bilingualism/Language Teaching is invited to attend. Lunch will only be provided for registered attendees, however; and registration has ended.


Program & Abstracts


Schedule of Events

11:00 -- Welcome (Kiel Christianson, SLATE Director)

11:05 -- Invited talk (Dr. Chilin Shih)

12:00 -- Lunch & Posters


1:05 -- Invited talk (Dr. Iva Ivanova)



Critical Education: The Effect of Critical Language Awareness Instruction on Spanish Heritage Speakers, Heritage Speakers of Other Languages, and Second Language Learners

Lorena Alarcon: Traditional poster

Critical language awareness (CLA) is an approach that helps learners reflect on their own and others’ language practices (Clark & Ivanik, 1997). Previous studies found that Spanish heritage learners and L2 learners incremented their CLA after receiving instruction (Holguín Mendoza, 2018; Beaudrie et al., 2019, 2020; Quan, 2020). Most studies showed the CLA effect on Spanish heritage speakers. However, little was said about how CLA instruction impacts heritage speakers of Spanish, heritage speakers of other languages, and L2 learners. This research will expand the understanding of CLA education for students with diverse language backgrounds. Specifically, it will investigate: (a) the effect of instruction on CLA over time in advanced Spanish content courses, (b) learners’ perceptions about the Spanish language maintenance, and (c) learners’ perceptions of other heritage language maintenance. Participants were 46 undergraduate students, enrolled in advanced courses at an American university. Experimental group participants took CLA courses, and control group participants did not. All participants completed a pretest and a posttest to measure the effect of instruction, and experimental group participants had a follow-up interview. Quantitative and qualitative data were analyzed for triangulation. Findings revealed that participants in the experimental group had higher CLA scores than those in the control group at the end of the semester. Results also showed that heritage speakers of other languages increased their scores the most after receiving instruction. Qualitative findings indicated that participants’ perceptions supported quantitative results and reflected the content they studied in class.


Ambiguous Relative Clause Attachment Preferences in L1-Japanese L2-English Speakers

Amy Yuiko Atiles--Traditional poster

Ambiguous relative clause (RC) resolution is a commonly used structure for testing whether first language (L1) preferences transfer to a second (L2). Speakers of high attachment (HA) languages (e.g., Japanese) are known to prefer brother as the antecedent for who is outside in The principal spoke to [NP1 the brother of [NP2 the teacher [RC who is outside]]] (Cuetos & Mitchell, 1988). Speakers from low attachment (LA) languages (e.g., English) prefer the teacher. Japanese and English are an interesting pair because they have opposite RC attachment preferences and head directionality, Japanese being head-final and English head-initial (Ono, 2019; Yamada et al., 2017). Two studies have investigated L2er online preferences in temporarily ambiguous English RCs with the resulting HA preferences suggesting L1 transfer (Nakano & Wang, 2011; Otaka, 2018). Neither study tested globally ambiguous items, however, which would allow us to determine whether L1 transfer persists in a purely preferential task.

Twenty-nine L1-English native speakers (NSs) and 22 L2ers took a forced-choice comprehension task. Items consisted of a context sentence, target sentence with RC, and comprehension question about the RC antecedent (Table 1). The RCs forced a high, low, or unbiased preference. Though an L1 transfer effect of HA preferences with ambiguous RCs was demonstrated descriptively (Figure 1), this interaction was statistically insignificant. Rather, L2ers are more likely than NSs to prefer HA in all conditions. The results suggest that L1 transfer persists when deciding where to attach an ambiguous RC. A repeated study with a larger L2 sample size is necessary to assess the effects of individual differences.


The relationship between musical training and intelligibility in French pronunciation for novice adult learners

Lisa Brittingham--Traditional Poster

This preliminary study seeks to determine the relationship between musical training and intelligibility of French pronunciation in novice adult learners. It focuses on 58 university students across the United States enrolled in a four-semester basic language program. The participants each completed a language background questionnaire, a musical background questionnaire, and a multiple intelligence questionnaire. They also submitted two audio recordings: a read-aloud task and a semi-spontaneous production task. Only the read-aloud task is examined in this study. With help from three nativelike speakers of French as raters and following Levis’s (2005) intelligibility principle, it examines the intelligibility rate in French pronunciation of a read-aloud task. Additionally, acoustic measurements of every occurrence of /ə/ and /e/ in the read-aloud task were taken for formants F1 and F2. These measurements were then averaged and compared to the acoustic measurements of a native male and female speaker of French, depending on the gender of the participant. Data analysis is yet to be conducted, such as Spearman’s correlation and Kendall’s tau-b, in order to examine the correlation between the intelligibility rate and various variables such as French onset age, level of French instruction, and years of musical training. Based on a review of literature, it is hypothesized that there will be a strong positive correlation between the intelligibility rate and the amount of musical training.


Relationship between source use and argumentation in second language integrated writing assessment

Ping-Lin Chuang--Traditional poster

Second language (L2) writing assessment observes an increased interest in integrated tasks as more and more research examines the performance characteristics and validity evidence of integrated writing assessment (e.g., Biber & Gray, 2013; Cumming et al., 2005). As a feature of integrated tasks, source use serves as an important indicator of proficiency level (e.g., Plakans & Gebril, 2013). This study aims to investigate how characteristics of source use affect students’ argumentation effectiveness and argumentation stance in an L2 writing test. 300 benchmark essays on an integrated English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) writing placement test at a US university were collected. The test features reading source materials that contain six text boxes, each presenting a point of view on a shared topic. To examine the characteristics of source use, for each essay, I calculated the frequency of source use, analyzed the overall stance of argumentation, and coded a range of source use features including source position and usage, integration style, and interpretation accuracy. Results from descriptive statistics, ordinal logistic regression, and multinomial logistic regression show that the ability to cite and quote sources distinguished higher-level essays from lower ones. Source use frequency and interpretation accuracy, however, were not meaningful predictors of argumentation effectiveness. On the other hand, source text position and usage had an impact on argumentation stance. Within the same type of argumentation stance, low-level essays displayed patterns of usage that might have explained their quality of argumentation. These results carry meaningful implications for writing scale development and argumentative writing pedagogy.


Language Anxiety Among Native and Non-native Language Teachers

William Laroux--Laptop poster

Language anxiety is one of the most well researched constructs in second language acquisition literature. It is a situation specific anxiety which is triggered in environments where people must communicate in their non-native language. The vast majority of second language literature about anxiety focuses solely on how it affects students, and shows that it exhibits a significantly negative effect on language attainment. However, students are not the only stakeholders in a classroom subject to negative emotions. Language teachers are also called on to perform in the target language, usually at much higher levels than their students.  For non-native teachers, and possibly their native speaking colleagues as well, language anxiety could place a significant burden on their teaching experience. This study will use a survey of language teaching assistants across the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, from every language department, to determine the extent to which language anxiety affects their teaching, and investigate the kinds of strategies that they use to cope. By sampling teachers from such a wide variety of language and teaching backgrounds, this study can provide a significant contribution to the language anxiety literature. We hope to better illuminate how different demographic, language, and teaching profiles correlate with language anxiety. In particular, we want to explore if non-native language teachers report language anxiety at different rates than native ones. Finally, based on the information they provide about their coping strategies, we also hope to make some recommendations for mitigating the negative effects of language anxiety on teachers. 


Priming inflectional morphology in English as a second language

Chae Eun Lee--Laptop poster

Inflectional morphology is known to be one of the most challenging areas in second language (L2) acquisition. L2 learners whose first language (L1) lacks corresponding morphemes have particular difficulties, frequently omitting tense or number morphemes in spontaneous speech. The best methods for increasing the consistent production of such morphemes in learners, however, remain unclear. The goal of the current study is to investigate whether priming can effectively increase the correct production of English third-person singular -s in L1-Korean L2-English learners (N = 19), whose L1 lacks subject-verb number agreement morphology.

Following Bock (1986), a picture description task was used to elicit English third-person singular -s. Participants were asked to create a sentence using the given verb and the habitual adverb to describe the picture. They completed a baseline study that measured the base rate of -s production. After about a week, they completed a priming treatment and a posttest. Results showed that the participants produced significantly more third-person -s in the treatment phase than in the baseline phase (p <.01). While the production of -s decreased in the posttest phase, the rates were still slightly higher than they were in the baseline phase. This indicates that priming is effective in increasing the -s production in L2 learners at least in the short term. Overall, the results suggest that it is possible to prime grammatical morphemes, and priming can be used to facilitate the L2 morphosyntactic acquisition. 


Writing Direction and Mental Representations of Time in Arabic and English Bilinguals

Mai Mohammed --Traditional poster

Studies have reported that writing direction affects people’s patterns of drawing, mental images, aesthetic preferences, and organization of time. This effect of writing direction on other cognitive aspects has been termed directionality bias. Studies have shown that literate speakers of languages with a Right-to-Left (RL) writing direction organize time from right to left, however, literate speakers of languages with Left-to-Right (LR) writing direction organize time from left to right. Therefore, Arabic speakers organize time from right to left, while English speakers organize time from left to right (Dobel et al., 2007; Fuhrman & Boroditsky, 2010; Maass and Russo, 2003; Tversky, Kugelmass, and Winter, 1991; Zebian, 2005). However, research on how Arabic-English bilinguals organize time has been limited. This study explores mental representations of time in Arabic monolinguals (n=15), English monolinguals(n=13) and Arabic-English (n=14). Temporal sequence reporting tasks created using PC-Ibex are used to assess directionality bias in mental representations of time among participants. Results were analyzed using ANOVAs and show a significant effect of writing direction on mental representations of time in the English monolingual group and the Arabic monolingual group, however, no significant effect was observed among the bilingual group. This shows that both the English and Arabic monolingual groups suffered from interference when faced with the space-time mapping unfamiliar with their writing direction, however, the bilingual results were inconclusive.


Bilinguals’ Auditory Imagery During Silent Reading

Laura Valderrama--Traditional Poster

Auditory perceptual simulation (APS) during silent reading refers to situations when readers actively mentally simulate another person’s voice or their own voice as they read silently. Inducing APS of different speech during silent reading in English results in observable differences in reading speed and processing patterns among native English speakers. The present eye-tracking study investigated the effects of APS on reading times and reading comprehension of English non-native (L2) speakers. During the experiment, L2 English speakers were cued to activate APS of native and non-native English speech during silent reading of sentences with manipulations of semantic plausibility and syntactic structure. Preliminary results reveal that similarly to English native speakers, L2 English speakers’ reading times and reading comprehension are modulated by APS effects. L2 readers in the study read sentences faster when they imagined a faster native English speaker’s voice compared to when they imagine a slower non-native speaker’s voice. Furthermore, APS effects may be linked to the readers’ attitudes towards native and non-native English speech.