Experimental Methods in Language Acquisition Research

ORCID logoElma Blom | University of Amsterdam
ORCID logoSharon Unsworth | Utrecht University
ISBN 9789027219961 | EUR 105.00 | USD 158.00
ISBN 9789027219978 | EUR 36.00 | USD 54.00
ISBN 9789027287953 | EUR 105.00/36.00*
| USD 158.00/54.00*
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Experimental Methods in Language Acquisition Research provides students and researchers interested in language acquisition with comprehensible and practical information on the most frequently used methods in language acquisition research. It includes contributions on first and child/adult second language learners, language-impaired children, and on the acquisition of both spoken and signed language. Part I discusses specific experimental methods, explaining the rationale behind each one, and providing an overview of potential participants, the procedure and data-analysis, as well as advantages and disadvantages and dos and don’ts. Part II focuses on comparisons across groups, addressing the theoretical, applied and methodological issues involved in such comparative work. This book will not only be of use to advanced undergraduate and postgraduate students, but also to any scholars wishing to learn more about a particular research method. It is suitable as a textbook in postgraduate programs in the fields of linguistics, education and psychology.
[Language Learning & Language Teaching, 27] 2010.  vii, 292 pp.
Publishing status: Available
Table of Contents
“This book is an excellent manual for the language acquisition researcher, and would constitute an ideal reader for courses on experimental methodology in acquisition research. It provides a rich and extensive overview of various methods that have been used in the field of language acquisition, and offers, in a very practical fashion, the advantages and disadvantages of each method. The target audience is meant to include both beginner and experienced researchers; in this respect, it certainly succeeds as advertised. For the beginner researcher, the book provides an excellent introduction and overview of some commonly used methodologies, and very helpfully explains the appropriateness of each method; for the experienced researcher, the book rises to the occasion in providing a refresher on relevant methodologies. The greatest contribution of the book is that it compiles extremely useful and relevant information on various methodologies within a single source.
In covering as much as it does, however, one should note that the book is (naturally) somewhat limited in the amount of detail provided for each methodology. This book is in essence a handbook, and while it provides extremely useful and relevant information in a readily and easily accessible form, it is not meant to provide exhaustive coverage of all the details behind each methodology. For that, one must look to additional sources. It is a merit of the book, however, that each article does indeed point the reader to plentiful other sources, which include not only methodologically-oriented works that offer more focused detail about the methods themselves, but also numerous previous acquisition studies that have made use of the methods in question. These references are provided throughout the discussion in each chapter, as well as in extensive reference sections at the end of each chapter. The book, then, provides an excellent basis of knowledge, but ultimately must direct the reader to other sources for further detail.
Another limitation that arises from its conciseness as a handbook is that in many places it does not provide more detailed examples of experimental conditions. Each chapter does a good job of adequately describing the relevant procedures, but one must look to the references cited therein to see exactly how one would apply the method described (e.g. for examples of particular test items, instructions to participants, picture stimuli, dialogues, etc.). Each chapter adequately describes in prose various methodological points pertaining to relevant procedures, but it would have been helpful in many places to see an example of an actual test condition. These are not completely absent from the book, however; Sorace's chapter on magnitude estimation, for example, offers an example set of instructions that walks the reader through the crucial components of the experimental set-up, from the calibration session, to the practice session, to the actual test session (pp. 63-65). Such an explicit example offers the reader a very helpful ''tour'' of the method, demonstrating very clearly how to apply the various methodological points raised throughout the rest of the chapter. Another helpful example is found in Johnson and Zamuner's chapter on methods of infant testing, where the authors provide graphs depicting idealized data sets, which allow the reader to visualize target differences between conditions.
A notable merit of the book is that it does not restrict itself to any particular theoretical approach to language, and moreover, the methods that it covers collectively address research in a very broad range of linguistic subfields and research topics, including (but not restricted to): phonological development, grammatical feature specification, binding principles, grammatical agreement, morphology, quantifier interpretation, optionality, language attrition, language contact, word learning, phonotactic sensitivity, phonemic contrasts, auditory processing, lexical/semantic/syntactic processing, reference, ambiguity resolution, pragmatics, pronoun/anaphora resolution, etc. As such, almost any language acquisition researcher will find some issue of interest in the volume.
In short, this volume succeeds in its goal of providing students and researchers with very helpful and hands-on information about frequently used experimental methods in language acquisition research.”
“Language acquisition researchers should ideally be able to explore their questions with whichever methods are best suited to the problem at hand. Fortunately, recent years have witnessed huge growth in the diversity and sophistication of the experimental tools available for developmental research, including different on-line methods, electrophysiological procedures, and techniques for working with very young children. But this creates the challenge of how to master these exciting new methods. Blom and Unsworth have succeeded in gathering a treasure trove of valuable information on language acquisition methods, which will prove indispensable for novice and experienced researchers alike. The shared format of the different chapters makes them particularly easy to read, and it is fascinating to read the collections of pros, cons, and "dos and don'ts" that conclude each chapter. In addition to helping researchers who are taking their first steps with novel experimental methods, the chapters in the volume provide rare 'behind-the-scenes' commentary that should be useful for any consumers of the results that emerge from the various techniques.”
“This book fills an obvious gap in the literature of language acquisition research. It includes a comprehensive, state-of-the-art presentation of different experimental techniques, suggests their suitability for different populations of learners and points out the level of linguistic knowledge they tap into, providing guidelines which are psycholinguistically sophisticated and, at the same time, linguistically informed. Research methodologies into typical and atypical first language development as well as second language acquisition by children and adults are supplemented by advice on good practices in data elicitation and analysis, in ethical research conduct and in raised sensitivity to researcher-participant interactions. The book is an essential reading to anyone seeking to carry out sound psycholinguistic research on language development.”
“This volume contains an impressive collection of chapters that overviews a broad variety of current research methods in language acquisition that are targeted at a range of subject populations. It offers excellent practical information about diverse research methods written by experts in an informative and accessible style. This volume will serve as a valuable guide for graduate students just embarking on their research careers, as well as for seasoned researchers who might be interested in approaching their research from a different methodological perspective. The pros and cons of particular methods are clearly discussed, useful web resources are provided when applicable, and examples of research taken from foundational as well as more recent studies are provided. Even for researchers who are not embarking on experimental research themselves, the volume will help them understand and critically evaluate studies that use the covered methods. In short, Experimental Methods in Language Acquisition Research does an excellent job of bringing together interesting and informative reviews of current experimental methods under one cover.”
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This list is based on CrossRef data as of 17 may 2024. Please note that it may not be complete. Sources presented here have been supplied by the respective publishers. Any errors therein should be reported to them.


Main BIC Subject

CFDC: Language acquisition

Main BISAC Subject

LAN009000: LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Linguistics / General
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U.S. Library of Congress Control Number:  2010021314 | Marc record