Cross-linguistic influence in L2 writing: The role of short-term memory

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The present chapter explores the relationship between individual differences in phonological short-term memory (PTSM) efficiency and the amount of cross-linguistic influence evidenced in second language (L2) collocations produced in writing. Elementary and intermediate L2 learners “may not have sufficient available processing capacity to pay careful attention to how words are conventionally combined” (Bonk 2001: 116–117) and when not sure of the correct L2 form they may resort to avoidance or transfer from the first language (L1). The argument posited in the current paper is that lower levels of PSTM functioning eventuate in lower levels of L2 collocational knowledge, which results in learners’ falling back on L1 collocational patterns simply because the relevant L2 resources are lacking. The article builds on the large body of research on L1/L2 language acquisition, specifically on the relationship between stage of learning and the role of cross-lexical interaction (see e.g. Singleton 1999, 2012; Skrzypek and Singleton 2013a) as well as that between PSTM and vocabulary learning in L1 and L2 (e.g. Gathercole et al. 1992). Even though the link between PSTM and vocabulary knowledge is believed to be strongest in the early stages of language acquisition (see e.g. Gathercole 2006a, b), PSTM has recently been shown to be implicated in the development of L2 collocational knowledge (more specifically, controlled production of L2 collocations) not only in beginners but also in pre-intermediate adult learners (Skrzypek and Singleton 2013b). The current study investigates whether similar patterns can be traced in relation to cross-linguistic influence in samples of writing of elementary and pre-intermediate L2 learners.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEssential Topics in Applied Linguistics and Multilingualism
Subtitle of host publicationStudies in honor of David Singleton
EditorsM Pawlak, L Aronin
Place of PublicationBerlin
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-01414-2
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-01413-5
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Publication series

NameSecond Language Learning and Teaching
ISSN (Print)2193-7648


  • short-term memory
  • transfer


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