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This paper argues for a cognitive psychological approach to second language phenomena that emphasizes the importance of the development of automaticity and the process of restructuring. It is argued that practice can lead to improvement in performance as sub-skills become automated, but it is also possible for increased practice to create conditions for restructuring, with attendant decrements in performance as learners reorganize their internal representationalframework.In the second case, performance may follow a U-shaped curve, declining as more complex internal representations replace less complex ones, and increasing again as skill becomes expertise. Examples are drawn from first and second language research, and from research on expert systems. The cognitive approach is not seen as competitive to, but as complementary with, linguistic approaches to second language development. In the past two decades a major development has occurred in psychology as the field moved away from the behaviourism of the past to contemporary cognitive psychology. There were several consequences of this metanoia. For one thing, psychologists returned to psychological questions. Contemporary cognitive psychology emphasizes knowing, rather than responding. Cognitive psychologists are concerned with finding scientific means for studying the mental processes involved in the acquisition and application of knowledge. The focus is not stimulus-response bonds, but mental events. To paraphrase Chomsky, calling psychology 'behavioral science' is like designating natural science 'the science of meter readings' (Chomsky 1968: 58). To call psychology the science of behavior is to confuse the evidence studied (behavior) with the goal of the study (understanding of the human mind). A second characteristic of the cognitive approach is that it emphasizes mental structure or organization. The argument is that human knowledge is organized and that new input is interpreted in the light of this organization. Here thefieldis especially indebted to Jean Piaget, the Swiss scholar who maintained that all living creatures are born with an invariant tendency to organize experience, and that this tendency provides the impetus for cognitive development. Finally, the cognitive approach, in contrast to behaviorism, stresses the notion that the individual is active, constructive, and planful, rather than a passive recipient of environmental stimulation. For cognitive psychology, any complete account of human cognition must include an analysis of the plans or strategies people use for thinking, remembering, and understanding and producing language. It is important to note that these strategies are volitional, in that they can be
Applied Linguistics, Vol. 11, No. 2 © Oxford University Press 1990



adopted or not, at the discretion of the person. This does not mean, however, that the person always exerts conscious control over which strategies are called into action, nor does it mean that the person is capable of describing the strategies in detail. For example, when engaged in conversation, speakers are using strategies for understanding and producing sentences, yet if asked to explain exactly how these strategies were being used, they would not be able to do so. Using a computer analogy, we can say that speakers store programs (strategies) in memory that enable them to understand and produce language. They can execute these programs when they wish to do so, but are not able to examine and report the details of the program. In this paper I will discuss a cognitive psychological perspective to second language learning and the centrality of the restructuring process to understanding how individuals learn second languages.

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Consider the following report of a schizophrenic patient:
I'm not sure of my own movements any m o r e . . . 1 found recently that I was thinking of myself doing things before 1 would do them. If I'm going to sit down for example, I've got to think of myself and almost see myself sitting down before I do it. It's the same with other things like washing, eating, and even dressing—things that I have done at one time without even bothering or thinking about at all... I take more time to do things because I am always conscious of what I am doing. If I could just stop noticing what I am doing . . . I have to do everything step by step now, nothing is automatic. Everything has to be considered. (McGhie 1969)

Of course, this is a very dysfunctional situation. If we had to think through ordinary activities before we did them, we would not be able to manage our lives very well. What we see in this patient is a breakdown in the automaticity that is so important for normal functioning. We perform numerous complex tasks in our daily lives automatically, without thinking about them. But this was not always the case; we had to learn to perform the operations involved in these complex skills by focusing attention on them. In his movie From Cup to Lip, the psychologist, Jerome Bruner, demonstrates how getting a cup to her lips is no small feat for a seven-month-old infant. Later in life, learning to use a clutch or master the backhand in tennis are tasks that require a great deal of attention—or what cognitive psychologists call 'controlled processing'. After one has practiced the task, components of these skills become automatic, and controlled processing is required only in unusual cases. When you have been driving for many years, you can carry on a conversation as long as no emergencies arise; but if you have to drive on a very icy road, controlled processing is called into play and it is difficult to keep a conversation going. With enough practice, it is possible for people to carry out quite amazing feats. In one experiment, after extended practice, subjects were able to read a story aloud while writing down another story from dictation (Solomons and


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Stein 1896, cited in Howard 1983). In this case, presumably, reading had become so automatic that the subjects could devote attention to the other task. Note that cognitive psychologists see the same principles applying to complex skills such as reading, writing, or learning a second language as apply in the case of motor skills such as driving, typing, or playing tennis. In short, within the framework of contemporary cognitive psychology, complex cognitive skills are learned and routinized (i.e. become automatic) through the initial use of controlled processes. Controlled processing requires attention and takes time, but through practice, sub-skills become automatic and controlled processes are free to be allocated to higher levels of processing. Thus controlled processing can be said to lay down the 'stepping stones' for automatic processing as the learner moves to more and more difficult levels (Shiffrin and Schneider 1977). In this conceptualization, complex tasks are characterized by a hierarchical structure. That is, such tasks consist of sub-tasks and their components. The execution of one part of the task requires the completion of various smaller components. As Levelt (1977) noted, carrying on a conversation is an example of a hierarchical task structure (Table 1). The first-order goal is to express a particular intention. To do this, the speaker must decide on a topic and select a certain syntactic schema. In turn, the realization of this schema requires subactivities, such as formulating a series of phrases to express different aspects of the intention. But to utter the phrases there is the need for lexical retrieval, the activation of articulatory patterns, utilization of appropriate syntactic rules, etc. Each of these component skills needs to be executed before the higher-order goal can be realized, although there may be some parallel processing in real time. Note the importance, in this conceptualization, of practice. The development of any complex cognitive skill is thought to require building up a set of welllearned, automatic procedures so that controlled processes are freed for new learning. From a practical standpoint, the necessary component is overlearning. A skill must be practiced again and again and again, until no attention is required for its performance. Repetitio est mater studiorum —practice, repetition, time on task—these seemed to be the critical variables for successful acquisition of complex skills, including complex cognitive skills such as second language learning. Table 1: The hierarchical task structure of speaking
First-order goal: Second-order goal: Third-order goal: Lower-order goals: lo express a particular intention to decide on a topic to formulate a series of phrases to retrieve the lexicon needed to activate articulatory patterns to utilize appropriate syntactic rules to meet pragmatic conventions

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Based on Levelt 1977



This conceptualization, however, leaves something out of the picture, and runs contrary to the experience of researchers in the second languagefield.As one of these researchers put it in a 'state-of-the-art' paper:
Practice does not make perfect Even though there are acquisition sequences, acquisition is not simply linear or cumulative, and having practised a particular form or pattern does not mean that the form or pattern is permanently established. Learners appear to forget forms and structures which they had seemed previously to master and which they had extensively practised. (Some researchers have referred to 'U-shaped development'.) This author, Patsy Lightbown, went on to discuss some of her own research: Learners were—for months at a time—presented with one or a small number of forms to learn and practise, and they learned them in absence of related contrasting forms. When they did encounter new forms, it was not a matter of simply adding them on. Instead the new forms seemed to cause a restructuring of the whole system. (Lightbown 1985:177) RESTRUCTURING

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These comments made sense, and helped clarify some puzzling data from a study of second language reading (McLeod and McLaughlin 1986). The data came from an analysis of errors that speakers of differing degrees of proficiency in English made when reading aloud. We found that the errors that beginning ESL students made were primarily nonmeaningful, which was seen to be due to these students focusing on the graphic aspects of the text. That is, they would make errors like She shook the piggy bank and out came some many (for money); whereas native speakers were more likely to make meaningful errors, such as She shook the piggy bank and out came some dimes .It was expected that the proportion of meaningful errors for advanced ESL students would fall somewhere between what was found for beginning ESL students and native speakers. But instead, it was found that advanced ESL students, who had a much superior grasp of the syntactic and semantic constraints of English (as shown by their performance on a cloze test), made as many nonmeaningful errors as the beginning students (Table 2). Table 2: Group differences on dependent variables
Cloze test Proportion of meaningful errors mean sd

Group Beginning ESL Advanced ESL Native Speakers



3.5 6.8 9.7

2.2 2.4 0.6

.20 .29 .79

.14 .17 .17


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Research on learning to read in a second language suggests that there are at least three stages: 1 First, the learner must master the rules governing symbol-sound correspondences in the target language. 2 The learner must be able to use those rules in learning words and must progressively refine and automate word-decoding operations. 3 Building on automated decoding skills, the learner must acquire and perfect a complex set of processing skills that allows for rapid processing of incoming material and the extraction of meaning. Beginning readers may have mastered the mechanical aspects of reading, but continue to process the text word by word, not using contextual semantic relations and syntactic information to comprehend meaning (Cromer 1970). What was surprising was that more advanced learners in the McLeod and McLaughlin (1986) study were apparently doing the same thing. Their errors showed that they were not utilizing semantic and syntactic cues as well as they could have. They were not approaching the task as 'a psycholinguistic guessing game' in which graphic cues were used to make predictions about what the printed text means, even though the evidence from the cloze test suggests that they were quite capable of making such predictions. Their increasing syntactic and semantic competence enabled them to make nearly twice as many accurate predictions as the beginners on the cloze test, yet they did not apply this competence to their reading behavior. This suggests a process of restructuring had not yet occurred. What seemed to be happening was that the advanced subjects were using old strategies aimed at decoding, in a situation where their competencies would have allowed them to apply new strategies directed at meaning. Their performance on the cloze test indicated that they had the skills needed for "going for meaning'. Presumably they read this way in their first language, but they had not yet made the shift (restructured) in their second language. In this language, they did not make strategic use of the semantic and syntactic knowledge at their disposal. Indeed, other researchers obtained very similar results in second language reading (Clarke 1979).

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The concept of restructuring can be traced in the psychological literature to the developmental psychologist, Jean Piaget. The Piagetian structuralist approach maintains that cognitive development is an outcome of underlying structural changes in the cognitive system. Just what constitutes structural change has been a topic of some debate (see Globerson 1986; Karmiloff-Smith 1986). Suffice it to say that there appears to be agreement that not just any change constitutes restructuring. Restructuring is characterized by discontinuous, or qualitative, change as the child moves from stage to stage in development. Each new stage constitutes a new internal organization and not merely the addition of new structural elements.



Recent concern with restructuring in developmental psychology reflects a new emphasis on the dynamics of change and a reaction to what had become known as the 'snapshot problem'. That is, developmental psychologists became concerned that their knowledge of cognitive growth consisted of a series of 'snapshots' of the child's abilities at various points in development, but that they knew little about how the child progressed from snapshot to snapshot. The analogy in the field of second language research is the concern (expressed by such authors as Hatch 1978; Huebner 1983; Long and Sato 1984) that there is much known about linguistic products, but little known of the dynamics of psycholinguistic processes. From an information processing perspective, restructuring can be seen as a process in which the components of a task are coordinated, integrated, or reorganized into new units, thereby allowing the procedure involving old components to be replaced by a more efficient procedure involving new components (Cheng 1985). To study restructuring is to focus on the mechanisms of transition that are called into play as the learner modifies internalized, cognitive representations. Several examples of discontinuous change in the linguistic development of the child illustrate this process. Discontinuities in linguistic development One developmental shift that has received considerable attention is the transition from examplar-based representations to more rule-based representations. The classic example comes from morphological development, specifically, the development of English irregular past forms, such as came, went, broke, which are supplanted by rule-governed, but deviant past forms: corned, goed, breaked. In time, these new forms are themselves replaced by the irregular forms that appeared in the initial stage. This is an instance of the famous U-shaped developmental curve. Recently, this process has been discussed in detail by Karmiloff-Smith (1986), who argued that children attack new problems by going through the same recurrent phases. Phase 1 is the stage of automaticity and is data-driven; components of the task are mastered, but there is no attempt at overall organization. Organization is imposed at phase 2, when behavior is dominated by 'organization-oriented procedures', which result from the learner's attempts to simplify, unify, and gain control over the internal representation. Phase 3 involves the integration of the data-driven, bottom-up processes that guide phase 1 and the internally-generated, top-down processes that guide phase 2. This integration results from the restructuring at work in phase 2, which, once consolidated, can take environmental feedback into account without jeopardizing the overall organization. As in morphological development, work on lexical development indicates a similar movement from exemplar-based to rule-based representations. For example, young children may consider age, appearance, and behavior to be fundamental to the meaning of uncle, whereas older children will focus on kinship definition even in the face of highly uncharacteristic features. Tradition-

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ally, this shift was thought to occur at a specific point in development and to represent a general change in cognitive development (Vygotsky 1962). Recent work by Keil and his associates (Keil 1983; Keil and Caroll 1980) indicates, however, that the shift occurs at different times for different concepts, and is determined primarily by the structures of the concepts themselves rather than by a general transition from instance-bound knowledge to more rule-governed knowledge. This work suggests that restructuring can be modular, in the sense that development in one domain could look very different at a given point in time from development in another domain. An example of restructuring in syntactic development was reported by Slobin (1987), who cited the case of an English-speaking child who had grammaticized a distinction that is not grammaticized in the English language. The child used / and my as subjects of sentences, with the constraint that my appeared in 'hot' emotional contexts, such as My like cookies, whereas / was used in more neutral contexts, as in I like peas. Note that both subjects could be used with the same verb. In time, of course, this way of marking hot emotionality had to be abandoned as the child restructured his language to conform to target norms. Finally, the sudden discontinuous shifts that characterize the restructuring process can be seen in the development of comprehension, specifically the comprehension of metaphors. Recent research suggests that the ability to comprehend metaphors depends on the organization of the relevant knowledge needed to create metaphors—in particular, on the child's ability to juxtapose semantic fields. Only after the relevant semantic fields are developed can the child perceive metaphorical relations. Thus, young children are usually able to perceive metaphorical relations between animal terms and automobiles (The car is thirsty), but not between human eating terms and ways of reading a book (He gobbled up the book), because in this second case the semantic fields are not as well developed. Furthermore, research indicates that metaphorical understanding does not develop gradually, but that whole classes of metaphors become comprehensible all at once, as the sets of meanings that constitute semantic fields are acquired (Keil 1983). Mechanisms Several mechanisms have been proposed to account for such transitional shifts. Bowerman (1987) has distinguished two types of mechanisms: those that are 'off-line' in the sense that they occur without the child's awareness, and those that require 'on-line' attention. Off-line processes involve covert review of the existing repertory for regularities and exceptions. Thus forms that were previously independent become linked through common rules (as in the example of irregular verbs), or two words that were used interchangeably become differentiated. The explication procedure described by Karmiloff-Smith (1986) would also involve off-line processes. Restructuring occurs because learners go beyond the

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success of phase 1 and attempt to control and link previously isolated procedures into a unified representational framework: ... my argument has been that the human organism (both linguistic and cognitive) incorporates a drive to have control not only over the external environment (the input stimuli) but also, and importantly, over its own internal representations and finally over the intricate interaction between the two. (Karmiloff-Smith 1986:175)
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Thus, in this view, once the procedures at any phase become automatized, consolidated, and function efficiently, learners step up to a 'metaprocedural' level, which generates representational change and restructuring. More on-line processes occur when learners monitor their mistakes or encounter data that cannot be handled by their grammar. Thus discrepancies become the impetus for new developmental change. The child acquiring syntax might develop movement rules for negation and wh questions that are otherwise adequate, but that require restructuring when the goal is to produce negative questions. From an information-processing perspective, the mechanisms of change involved in restructuring result from the child's developing capacities. Thus in the example of comprehending metaphors, the child's growing capacity to form conceptually linked, and increasingly differentiated, semantic fields leads to the revelation of new relations to other domains through analogies, similarities, oppositions, and the like. Nonetheless, it is clear that not enough is currently known about the mechanisms involved in restructuring. Some authors stress the suddenness of shifts in the learner's internal representations. Thus, the argument runs, understanding the mechanisms of restructuring will best come about if attention is given to changes that occur at the beginning and end of plateaus in development (Globerson 1986). Other researchers note that structural changes can occur in subtle and gradual ways and that evidence for restructuring might be lost sight of if too much emphasis is put upon abruptness (Clark 1987).

Turning now to the second language literature: What evidence is there for restructuring and what does this process tell us about how people learn a second language? This discussion begins by examining briefly evidence for restructuring in syntactic and semantic development, and then turns to the role of strategy shifts in restructuring. Syntactic development There have been a number of reports of discontinuities in second language syntactic development that indicate restructuring. For example, Wode, Bahns, Bedey, and Frank (1978) found evidence for the initial appearance of correct irregular verb forms that are subsequently regularized to goed, corned, and the like, before the correct forms reappear. Lightbown (1985) cited Hyltenstam's (1977) work on the acquisition of the negative in Swedish as evidence that new


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forms were not simply added on, but caused a restructuring of the entire system. Kellerman (1983) saw the acquisition of the English modal past form as an instance of U-shaped behavior in Dutch second language learners. These learners apparently go through a process of imposing Dutch structures on English, which yields target-like and non-target-like forms, before they understand and apply the English rule correctly. One way of looking at syntactic restructuring is to view it as a transitional shift that occurs between two stages in the process of form-function mappings. Ellis (1985) has described these stages in the following terms. First, there is an assimilation phase during which learners form hypotheses that may or may not correspond to target language rules. This leads to a situation where two or more forms may be used in free variation. His example was the use of two negative forms (no and don't) in free variation in both indicative and imperative sentences. This is followed by a second stage, in which an economy principle replaces the strategy of blanket assimilation, as the learner tries to maximize linguistic resources by creating a system in which different forms serve different functions. Unless alternative forms can be justified by allocating them to different functions, redundant forms will be eliminated from the interlanguage. For example, Ellis's learner used only don't in imperatives. In the initial stage of this progression there is non-systematic variation because new forms are assimilated that have not yet been integrated into the learner's form-function system. Systematic variation occurs in the second stage when the new forms have been accommodated by a restructuring of the existing form-function system to give the new forms their own meanings to perform. Eventually, learners restructure their knowledge until they sort out formfunction relationships (though some learners never reach this third stage). Lightbown (1985) pointed out that second language acquisition is not simply linear and cumulative, but is characterized by backsliding and loss of forms that seemingly were mastered. She attributed this decline in performance to a process whereby learners have mastered some forms and then encounter new ones that cause a restructuring of the whole system: [Restructuring] occurs because language is a complex hierarchical system whose components interact in non-linear ways. Seen in these terms, an increase in error rate in one area may reflect an increase in complexity or accuracy in another, followed by overgeneralization of a newly acquired structure, or simply by a sort of overload of complexity which forces a restructuring, or at least a simplification, in another part of the system. (1985:177) A good example of this type of restructuring is found in the work of Jurgen Meisel and his colleagues (Meisel, Clahsen, and Pienemann 1981) on the acquisition of movement rules in German by untutored immigrant workers. These researchers found that passage through the developmental stages in German word order involved a temporary deletion of elements previously mastered. Thus learners would omit certain forms over which they had to move other forms, such as object noun phrases, or would leave out categories to be

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inverted, such as subjects or verbs. This apparent backsliding resulted from a temporary restructuring of the system that involved a simplification of certain elements to allow for the development of other elements. Semantic development In a recent article, Ard and Gass (1987) examined transitional developments in the acquisition of structural patterns by second language learners. They addressed the question of whether syntactic development can be reduced to lexical learning in the sense that what may appear to be syntactic learning is in actuality a matter of learning the structural frames into which lexical items can enter. Their data suggest that syntactic patterns develop piecemeal, with learners acquiring lexical items as unique bits of language information. It is only at later stages of development that lexical tadpoles are replaced by syntactic frogs. Thus, in a general sense, development in a second language may involve the interaction of lexical and syntactic processes, with restructuring occurring as one or the other process predominates. Within the lexical domain, development in a second language consists of mapping two lexical and conceptual systems onto each other. Across two languages words may roughly correspond in meaning, but few word pairs completely overlap in all their lexical functions. Two languages may differ in the number and nature of distinctions made within a common, shared concept or in the linguistic distinctions made between semantic categories. In many instances, a lexical item in the second language cannot be directly mapped onto a concept existing in the first language, and the learner has to restructure existing first language concepts or develop a new concept that corresponds to a lexical item in the second language (Ijaz 1986). An instance of such lexical restructuring comes from Kellerman's work (1983). In this research Dutch university students and school children were asked to judge the acceptability of English expressions involving break. Dutch and English share both transitive and intransitive uses of break. Younger Dutch learners of English accepted both uses, presumably because they are transferring from Dutch or responding to both uses in the L2 input. Older learners, however, rejected English sentences exemplifying the intransitive use of break. Thus more advanced learners are actually performing less well in judging the acceptability of such sentences. Kellerman argued that the reason for the decline in performance is that older learners become sensitized to the pragmatic distinction between causative and non-causative meanings of verbs such as break. Restructuring occurs as older learners seize upon and manipulate what appear to be important functional distinctions (such as the distinction between causative and non-causative verbs) and attempt to give them distinct surface forms, rejecting forms where these distinctions are not made. Younger learners, who have had less instruction and are less sophisticated metalinguistically, are less likely to be aware of these functional distinctions.

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Strategy shifts A common strategy adopted by young second language learners (and, perhaps by more older second language learners than we realize) is to memorize formulas (Hakuta 1976; Wong Fillmore 1976). Some children are capable of amazing feats of imitation, producing multi-word utterances, which, it turns out, they understand only vaguely. Such unanalyzed chunks appear to show evidence of a sophisticated knowledge of the lexicon and syntax, but it has become clear that such holistic learning is a communicative stategy that second language learners use to generate input from native speakers (Wong Fillmore 1976). Subsequently, formulas are gradually 'unpacked' and used as the basis for more productive speech. At this stage, the learner's speech is simpler but more differentiated syntactically. Whereas utterances were as long as six or seven words in the initial stage, they are now much shorter. The learner has at this point adopted a new strategy, one of rule analysis and consolidation. The shift from formulaic speech to rule analysis is another example of the transition from exemplar-based representations to more rule-based representations. Representational changes of this nature are the focus of one of the major research enterprises of contemporary cognitive psychology, understanding novice-expert shifts. As the name implies, the study of the novice-expert shift is the study of the change that occurs as a beginner in some domain gains expertise. Many domains have been studied—most extensively, expertise at chess, in the physical sciences, in computer programming, and in mathematical problem solving. For the most part, these studies show that experts restructure the elements of a learning task into abstract schemata that are not available to novices, who focus principally on the surface elements of a task. Thus experts replace complex sub-elements with schemata that allow more abstract processing. For example, Chase and Simon (1975) replicated de Groot's (1965) finding that Master chess players reconstructed with greater than 90 percent accuracy midgame boards they had seen for only five seconds. They observed that Master players recalled clusters that formed attack or defense configurations, whereas beginners lacked the skill to form such abstract representations. McKeithen, Reitman, Rueter, and Hirtle (1981) found that intermediate programmers clustered the words of a programming language by concept, whereas novices clustered the same words alphabetically. Strategy differences were also reported by Adelson (1981, 1984), who found that expert programmers used abstract, conceptually based representations when attempting to recall programming material, whereas novices used more concrete representations. In the domain of language learning, experts are those individuals who have learned a number of languages. There is considerable anecdotal evidence that once a person has learned a new language, subsequent language learning is greatly facilitated. Presumably, there is some positive transfer that results from the process of language learning and carries over to the learning of a new language. Several studies bear on this hypothesis.

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Nation and McLaughlin (1986) carried out an experiment in which they compared information processing in multilingual, bilingual, and monolingual subjects learning a miniature linguistic system. The goal was to see how 'expert' language learners (multilingual subjects) compared in their performance with more 'novice' language learners. Subjects were asked to learn a miniature linguistic system consisting of letter strings under conditions in which they were merely exposed to the system without instructions to learn it (Implicit learning), or under conditions in which they were told that the system was rule-based and they should learn the rules (Explicit learning). Multilingual subjects were found to learn the grammar significantly better than bilingual or monolingual groups when the instructions called for 'Implicit' learning, but not when the instructions called for 'Explicit' learning. Nation and McLaughlin argued on the basis of their data that the superior performance of the multilingual subjects on the Implicit learning task was the result of better automated letter and pattern recognition skills. In another experiment (Nayak, Hansen, Krueger, and McLaughlin (in press)), subjects were exposed to a limited subset of permissible strings from an artificial linguistic system. The goal in this study was to determine whether subjects could apply generalizations derived from the learned subset to novel strings and if so, what was the nature of these generalizations. In this experiment the linguistic system involved a phrase structure grammar in which constituents were defined by dependencies between words, as well as by regularities of substitution and equivalence (Morgan and Newport 1981). No differences were found between multilingual and monolingual subjects in vocabulary or rule learning. The 'experts' were not better than the 'novices' on these tasks, but there were differences in how the two groups went about the tasks. In this experiment, half of the multilingual and the monolingual subjects were told to memorize the material they were exposed to and half were told to look for underlying rules. All subjects were asked at three points during the learning phase to verbalize for another potential subject exactly what they were doing and what strategies they were using. Multilingual subjects were found to be more likely to use mnemonic devices than linguistic strategies in the memory condition, but in the rule-discovery condition, both groups of subjects preferred linguistic strategies to mnemonic devices, although the difference was statistically significant only for the multilinguals (Table 3). In addition, multilingual subjects were found to use a wider variety of different strategies in the rule-discovery than in the memory condition, and no such differences were found for the monolingual subjects. This suggests that one difference between more and less experienced language learners relates to flexibility in switching strategies. This is consistent with the research of Nation and McLaughlin (1986), who found that multilingual subjects were able to avoid perseveration errors more than were other subjects in their experiment. Similarly, Ramsey (1980) reported that multilingual subjects demonstrated greater flexibilty in 'restructuring mental frameworks' than did monolingual subjects.

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Table 3: Codings of subjects' verbalizations of strategies used in learning phase (a)
Monolingual subjects Memory Rule-discovery

Multilingual subjects Memory Rule-discovery
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strategies (b) Mnemonic devices (c)

4.91 4.79

6.39 3.33

1.97 7.47

6.58 2.94

From Nayak, Hansen, Krueger, and McLaughlin (in press). (a) Responses were coded by allotting 10 points per protocol to each of four categories: structural, positional, verbal, and visual. (b) Combining scores for structural and positional categories. (c) Combining scores for verbal and visual categories.

Thus there is evidence to suggest that more expert language learners show greater plasticity in restructuring their internal representations of the rules governing linguistic input. This ability to exert flexible control over linguistic representations and to shift strategies may result from 'learning to learn', in the sense that experience with a number of languages may make the individual more aware of structural similarities and differences between languages and less constrained by specific learning strategies. More experienced learners may more quickly step up to the metaprocedural level and weigh the strategies and tactics they are using. In the Nayak et al. study, expert learners did not surpass novice learners in acquiring aspects of the linguistic system. This may have been because of limited amount of time and exposure to the linguistic system. In the longer run, multilingual subjects would be expected to perform better on vocabulary and rule learning, precisely because of their superior ability to shift strategies and restructure their internal representations of the linguistic system.

To summarize, the argument in this paper is that a complex cognitive skill, such as acquiring a second language, involves a process whereby controlled, attention-demanding operations become automatic through practice. This is essentially learning through accretion, whereby an increasing number of information chunks are compiled into an automated procedure. In addition, however, there are qualitative changes that occur as learners shift strategies and restructure their internal representations of the target language. In this view, practice can have two very different effects. It can lead to improvement in performance as sub-skills become automated, but it is also possible for increased practice to lead to restructuring and attendant decrements in performance as learners reorganize their internal representational framework. It seems that the effects of practice do not accrue directly or



automatically to a skilled action, but rather cumulate as learners develop more efficient procedures (Kolers and Duchnicky 1985). Performance may follow a U-shaped curve, declining as more complex internal representations replace less complex ones, and increasing again as skill becomes expertise. Such a cognitive psychological description of second language learning provides, none the less, a partial account, and needs to be linked to linguistic theories of second language acquisition. By itself, for example, the cognitive perspective cannot explain such linguistic constraints as are implied in markedness theory or that may result from linguistic universals. These specifically linguistic considerations are not addressed by an approach that sees learning a second language in terms of the acquisition of a complex cognitive skill.
(Received July 1988)
NOTE This article is a revision of a paper presented at the Second Language Research Forum, Honolulu, March 6, 1988. The author wishes to thank Jan Hulstijn and an anonymous reviewer for helpful comments.

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