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Eye movements during L2 SCMC: An examination of primed production

This presentation reports on a study of eye-movements during primed written synchronous computer-mediated communication (SCMC) among second language (L2) learners. By priming we mean the ways that language users tend to mirror lexical forms and syntactic structures encountered in recent discourse (Bock, 1995). Earlier work into priming in oral interaction (e.g., McDonough 2006) suggests that priming may be a powerful way to implicitly elicit developmentally advanced structures during peer interaction. Similarly, Michel and Stiefenhöfer (in preparation) used priming material to increase the use of subjunctive mood in written chat interactions among Spanish learning peers. Finally, using eye-tracking methodology Smith and Renaud (2013) found that L2 learners’ noticing of recasts provided by an instructor during written SCMC, was related to gains in subsequent production. Our presentation builds on these earlier investigations by measuring eye-movements to uncover evidence of noticing of primed structures during computer mediated chat interactions among dyads of L2 learners.

During a two-month period, high-intermediate university-level L2 learners of English performed weekly dialogic tasks using computer chat. The task material was manipulated to prime lexical items and linguistic forms associated with high levels of academic writing (e.g. appropriate uses of tense, aspect, passive voice). Chat log production was analyzed for (a), evidence of primed production of the target structures (b) focused editing behavior (e.g., deleting, correcting), (c) eye-movements during task performance which suggest heightened attention to target forms. Pre- and post-test scores were then evaluated for changes in correctness of target structure use. These results are discussed in terms of the value of primed production in L2 peer interaction and applicability in the specific modality of written SCMC. The presentation will conclude with some methodological recommendations for the use of eye-tracking methodology as a tool in investigating L2 learners’ focus on form and the processes of noticing.


Bryan Smith    
Arizona State University
United States

Bryan Smith is Associate Professor of English at ASU. His interests include the nexus of SLA theory and CALL. He is currently co-editor of the CALICO Journal.

Marije Michel    
Department of Linguistics and English Language
Lancaster University
United Kingdom


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