doi:

DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2017.00285

Acta Psychologica Sinica (心理学报) 2017/49:3 PP.285-295

A cognitive inquiry into the short-circuit hypothesis in L2 reading: A paradigm of online L2 discourse processing


Abstract:
The Short-Circuit Hypothesis is one of the best-known theories in L2 (second language) reading. It proposes that the L2 reader has to reach a threshold level of L2 language proficiency in order to transfer his/her reading skills to L2 reading; otherwise insufficient knowledge of the L2 will "short-circuit" the readers' reading system. In the 1980s, against the background of this hypothesis, the issue of the relation between L1 (first language) reading and L2 reading has been a matter of theoretical debate in many publications as "a reading problem or language problems". Accumulative evidence was in support of the hypothesis. However, discussions came to a stop in the 1990s, and research on L2 reading procrastinated. Many key issues proposed by this hypothesis, however, remain to be resolved.
A major problem with the previous research is that many studies were methodologically test-based and product-oriented. Little research was devoted to the investigation of the psycho-cognitive nature of the threshold effect and the short-circuiting of readers' reading systems. The present article attempted to approach the short-circuit hypothesis and examine the threshold effect by viewing L2 reading as a complex psycho-cognitive process. More specifically, using the Structure Building Framework by Gernsbacher (1990), it examined how L2 readers built mental representations of the L2 texts they were reading and what cognitive processes were involved in the threshold effect for L2 reading. Two groups of participants with different levels of English proficiency took part in an online task of L2 narrative processing. During the test, they read 30 stories in both English and Chinese which were experimentally manipulated to have different kinds of story character:rementioning the original character, introducing a new character, and presenting neutral information. After reading each paragraph, they responded to a test probe, which was designed to test whether they could keep track of story characters and thus follow the causal chain in the stories.
Results indicated that the L2 group with a high level of English proficiency successfully transferred their comprehension skills from L1 to L2. The data of the L2 narrative comprehension further indicated that they efficiently suppressed the noisy information (irrelevant story characters) during comprehension and built "networked, cohesive" mental structures with few substructures. For the L2 group with a low level of English proficiency, a different pattern of results was found. They failed to transfer their L1 comprehension skills to L2 reading. It was also shown that, although they could suppress the noisy information during L1 comprehension, they failed to suppress the irrelevant information during L2 narrative comprehension, which resulted in "bulkier, less cohesive" mental structures of the L2 texts.
Based on these results, this article proposes that the transfer of L2 reading comprehension skills is associated with the readers' mechanism of suppression. It was the inefficiency of their mechanism of suppression that hampered low-level readers' transfer of L1 comprehension skills to the L2.

Key words:L2 reading,Short-circuit hypothesis,the threshold effect,suppression,mental representations

ReleaseDate:2017-04-10 17:47:47



Ahmadi, M. R., Ismail, H. N., & Abdullah, M. K. K. (2013). The importance of metacognitive reading strategy awareness in reading comprehension. English Language Teaching, 6(10), 235-244.

Alderson, J. C. (1984). Reading in a foreign language:A reading problem or a language problem? In J. C. Alderson & A. H. Urquhar (Eds.), Reading in a foreign language (pp. 122-135). Essex, UK:Longman.

Alderson, J. C., Brunfaut, T., & Harding, L. (2015). Towards a theory of diagnosis in second and foreign language assessment:Insights from professional practice across diverse fields. Applied Linguistics, 36, 236-260.

Bernhardt, E. B., & Kamil, M. L. (1995). Interpreting relationships between L1 and L2 reading:Consolidating the linguistic threshold and the linguistic interdependence hypotheses. Applied Linguistics, 16, 15-34.

Carrell, P. L. (1991). Second language reading:Reading ability or language proficiency? Applied Linguistics, 12, 159-179.

Clarke, M. A. (1980). The short circuit hypothesis of ESL reading-or when language competence interferes with reading performance. The Modern Language Journal, 64, 203-209.

Cummins, J. (1979). Linguistic interdependence and the educational development of bilingual children. Review of Educational Research, 49, 222-251.

Frey, L. (2005). The nature of the suppression mechanism in reading:Insights from an L1-L2 comparison. In Cognitive Science Conference Proceedings (pp. 714-719). Stresa, Italy.

Gernsbacher, M. A. (1990). Language comprehension as structure building. Hillsdale, NJ:Lawrence Erlbaum.

Gernsbacher, M. A., & Faust, M. E. (1991). The mechanism of suppression:A component of general comprehension skill. Journal of Experimental Psychology:Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 17, 245-262.

Gernsbacher, M. A., Robertson, R. R. W., Palladino, P., & Werner, N. K. (2004). Managing mental representations during narrative comprehension. Discourse Processes, 37, 145-164.

Goldman, S. R., Graesser, A. C., & van den Broek, P. (1999). Narrative comprehension, causality, and coherence. Mahwah, NJ:Lawrence Erlbaum.

Horiba, Y. (1993). The role of causal reasoning and language competence in narrative comprehension. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 15, 49-81.

Hu, G., & Jiang, N. (2011). Semantic integration in listening comprehension in a second language:Evidence from cross-modal priming. In P. Trofimovich & K. McDonough (Eds.), Applying priming methods to L2 learning, teaching and research:Insights from psycholinguistics (pp. 199-212). Philadelphia:Benjamins.

Jeon, E. H., & Yamashita, J. (2014). L2 reading comprehension and its correlates:A meta-analysis. Language Learning, 64, 160-212.

Jiang, N. (2011). Conducting reaction time research in second language studies. New York, NY:Routledge.

Kintsch, W. (1988). The role of knowledge in discourse comprehension:A construction-integration model. Psychological Review, 95, 163-182.

Kintsch, W., & Welsch, D. M. (1991). The construction-integration model:A framework for studying memory for text. In W. E. Hockley, & S. Lewandowsky (Eds.), Relating theory and data:Essays on human memory (pp. 367-385). Hillsdale, NJ:Lawrence Erlbaum.

Koda, K. (2005). Insights into second language reading. Cambridge:Cambridge University Press.

Lee, J., & Schallert, D. L. (1997). The relative contribution of L2 language proficiency and L1 reading ability to L2 reading performance:A test of the threshold hypothesis in an EFL context. TESOL Quarterly, 31, 713-736.

Lemhöfer, K., & Broersma, M. (2012). Introducing LexTALE:A quick and valid lexical test for advanced learners of English. Behavior Research, 44, 325-343.

Linderholm, T., Gernsbacher, M. A., van den Broek, P., Neninde, L., Robertson, R. R. W., & Sundermier, B. (2004). Suppression of story character goals during reading. Discourse Processes, 37, 67-78.

Magliano, J. P., & Radvansky, G. A. (2001). Goal coordination in narrative comprehension. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 8, 372-376.

Magliano, J. P., Taylor, H. A., & Kim, H. J. (2005). When goals collide:Monitoring the goals of multiple characters. Memory & Cognition, 33(8), 1357-1367.

McNamara, D.S., & O'Reilly, T.(2009). Theories of comprehension skill:Knowledge and strategies versus capacity and suppression. In F. Columbus (Ed.), Progress in Experimental Psychology Research (pp. 113-136). Hauppauge, NY:Nova Science Publishers.

Perfetti, C. (2007). Reading ability:Lexical quality to comprehension. Scientific Studies of Reading, 11, 357-383.

Pichette, F., Segalowitz, N., & Connors, K. (2003). Impact of maintaining L1 reading skills on L2 reading skill development in adults:Evidence from speakers of Serbo-Croatian learning French. Modern Language Journal, 87, 391-403.

Rosen, V. M., & Engle, R. W. (1998). Working Memory Capacity and Suppression. Journal of Memory and Language, 39, 418-436.

Salataci, R., &Akyel, A. (2002). Possible effects of strategy instruction on L1 and L2 reading. Reading in a Foreign Language, 14(1), 1-17.

Taillefer, G. E. (1996). L2 reading ability:Further insight into the short-circuit hypothesis. The Modern Language Journal, 80, 461-477.

Taki, S. (2016). Metacognitive online reading strategy use:Readers' perceptions in L1 and L2. Journal of Research in Reading, 39, 409-427.

Trabasso, T., Secco, T., & van den Broek, P.W. (1984). Causal cohesion and story coherence. In H. Mandl, N. L. Stein, & T. Trabasso (Eds.), Learning and comprehension of text (pp. 83-111). Hillsdale, NJ:Lawrence Erlbaum.

van den Broek, P., Risden, K., Fletcher, C. R., & Thurlow, R. (1996). A "landscape" view of reading:Fluctuating patterns of activation and the construction of a stable memory representation. In B. K. Britton, & A. C. Graesser (Eds.), Models of understanding text (pp. 165-187). Hillsdale, NJ:Lawrence Erlbaum.

Walter, C. (2007). First-to second-language reading comprehension:Not transfer, but access. International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 17(1), 14-37.

Xiang, M., & Kuperberg, G. (2015). Reversing expectations during discourse comprehension. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 30(6), 648-672.

Yamashita, J. (2001). Transfer of L1 reading ability to L2 reading:An elaboration of the linguistic threshold. Studies in Language and Culture, 23, 189-200.

Yamashita, J., & Shiotsu, T. (2015). Comprehension and knowledge components that predict L2 reading:A latent-trait approach. Applied Linguistics, doi:10.1093/applin/amu079

Wu, S. Y. (2016). The use of L1 cognitive resources in L2 reading by Chinese EFL learners. London:Routledge.

Wu, S. Y., & Ma, Z. (2015). The facilitation-without-inhibition phenomenon in L2 lexical-semantic processing. Modern Foreign Languages, 38(5), 646-655.

[吴诗玉, 马拯. (2015). 二语词汇语义加工中的"促进而无抑制现象"研究. 现代外语, 38(5), 646-655.]

Wu, S. Y., & Ma, Z. (2016). Suppression and working memory in auditory comprehension of L2 narratives:Evidence from cross-modal priming. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 45, 1115-1123.

Wu, S. Y., & Wang, T. S. (2006). On transfer of reading skills within the structure building framework from psycho-cognitive perspectives. Foreign Language Teaching and Research, 38(2), 122-128.

[吴诗玉, 王同顺. (2006). 结构建构框架下的外语阅读技能迁移研究. 外语教学与研究, 38(2), 122-128.]

Yang, F., & Wu, S.Y. (2016). Ultimate attainment of native-like L2 reading proficiency:Evidence from L2 discourse processing. Foreign Language Learning Theory and Practice,(4),1-9.

[杨枫, 吴诗玉. (2016). 我们能否像阅读母语那样地阅读外语?在线篇章处理的证据. 外语教学理论与实践, (4), 1-9.]

Zhang, L. J. (2010). A dynamic metacognitive systems account of Chinese university students' knowledge about EFL reading. TESOL Quarterly, 44(2), 320-353.