Brain potentials reveal discrete stages of L2 grammatical learning

Judith McLaughlin, Darren Tanner, Ilona Pitkänen, Cheryl Frenck-Mestre, Kayo Inoue, Geoffrey Valentine, Lee Osterhout

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this article we review several studies investigating the neural correlates of second-language (L2) grammatical learning in the context of novice adult learners progressing through their first year of L2 classroom instruction. The primary goal of these studies was to determine how and when learners incorporate L2 knowledge into their online language processing system. We show that at least some learners progress through discrete stages of grammatical learning during the first year of instruction. These stages are robust across languages, experimental tasks, and levels of language (lexical vs. sentential) and indicate that there is an intermediate stage of learning between no L2 grammatical knowledge and grammaticalization. We also show that although learners' brain responses are quite variable, this variability is highly systematic and can be used to identify meaningful subgroups of learners.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)123-150
Number of pages28
JournalLanguage Learning
Issue numberSUPPL. 2
StatePublished - Dec 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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