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ALERTNESS, ORIENTATION, AND DETECTION: The Conceptualization of Attentional Functions in SLA

  • Daphnée Simard (a1) and Wynne Wong (a2)


This paper critically examines Tomlin and Villa's (1994) fine-grained analysis of attention and Leow's (1998) attempt to operationalize their model. Our position is that whereas Tomlin and Villa have moved the attention research forward by describing the nature of attentional processes and by pointing out that detection is a critical function of SLA, their claim that alertness and orientation are not necessary for detection to occur is currently unsupportable and does not reflect the complex nature of SLA. We argue that Leow's efforts to provide empirical support for this model fall short of that goal. Additionally, we cast doubt on Tomlin and Villa's position that awareness is not required for the detection of L2 data by arguing that the issue of awareness as well as the role of attentional functions must be viewed from a more interactive perspective in terms of the nature of the task, the nature of the linguistic item, and individual learner differences. We conclude by proposing research orientations that may help advance the discussion on this topic.


Corresponding author

Department of French and Italian, The Ohio State University, 248 Cunz Hall, 1841 Millikin Road, Columbus, OH 43210–1229; e-mail:


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