Individual Differences in L2 Processing of Multi-word Phrases: Effects of Working Memory and Personality

  • Elma KerzEmail author
  • Daniel WiechmannEmail author
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 10596)


There is an accumulating body of evidence that knowledge of the statistics of multiword phrases (MWP) facilitates native language learning and processing both in children and adults. However, less is known about whether adult second language (L2) learners are able to develop native-like sensitivity to the statistics of MWP, and more importantly up until now no attempt has been made to determine to what extent variation in this ability is related to individual differences (IDs) in cognitive and affective factors. Using a within-subject design embedded in an individual-differences framework, the aim of the present study was twofold: (1) to replicate the MWP frequency effect reported in Hernandez et al. [1] with another sample of L2 learners, and (2) to determine to what extent variation in online L2 processing of MWP can be accounted for by two IDs measures, working memory (WM) and personality. We could replicate the frequency effect for MWP from the high frequency band but not for MWP from the low frequency band. Our findings revealed that while there was no main effect of WM, the Openness personality trait had a statistically significant impact on online L2 processing of MWP. However, subsequent analyses yielded three significant two-way interactions indicating that the relationship between WM, personality and online L2 processing of MWP is a complex one. Taken together our findings underscore the importance of further investigation of L2 learners’ ability to keep track of and build up knowledge of the statistics of MWPs as well as the interrelationships between the cognitive and affective IDs that impact the development of such ability.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.RWTH Aachen UniversityAachenGermany
  2. 2.University of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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