The Semantic Salience Hierarchy Model: The L2 Acquisition of Psych Predicates

The Semantic Salience Hierarchy Model: The L2 Acquisition of Psych Predicates

The Semantic Salience Hierarchy Model: The L2 Acquisition of Psych Predicates

Psych predicates, also known as psychological predicates, are linguistic structures that express mental states, emotions, and cognitive processes. These predicates play a crucial role in language acquisition, as they allow learners to express their thoughts and feelings. However, the acquisition of psych predicates in a second language (L2) can be challenging due to their complex nature.

The Semantic Salience Hierarchy Model

The Semantic Salience Hierarchy Model is a theoretical framework that explains how learners acquire and understand psych predicates in their L2. According to this model, psych predicates are organized in a hierarchy based on their semantic salience. Semantic salience refers to the degree of importance or prominence of a particular meaning in a given context.

Understanding Semantic Salience

In the context of psych predicates, semantic salience refers to the prominence of the mental state or emotion expressed by the predicate. For example, in the sentence “I love chocolate,” the word “love” expresses a strong and salient emotion. On the other hand, in the sentence “I like ice cream,” the word “like” expresses a less salient emotion.

Acquisition of High Salience Predicates

According to the Semantic Salience Hierarchy Model, learners first acquire and understand high salience psych predicates before moving on to lower salience ones. High salience predicates are those that express strong and easily recognizable mental states or emotions. Examples include “love,” “hate,” “fear,” and “enjoy.”

Challenges in Acquiring Low Salience Predicates

As learners progress in their L2 acquisition, they encounter lower salience psych predicates that express more subtle mental states or emotions. These predicates, such as “appreciate,” “admire,” and “regret,” pose challenges due to their nuanced meanings and context-dependent usage.

Strategies for L2 Learners

To successfully acquire and understand low salience psych predicates, L2 learners can employ various strategies. These include exposure to authentic language use, context-based learning, and explicit instruction on the subtle differences in meaning and usage.

  1. Exposure to authentic language use: Learners can benefit from exposure to real-life conversations, movies, and literature where psych predicates are used naturally and in context.
  2. Context-based learning: Learners should pay attention to the context in which psych predicates are used to infer their meaning. Understanding the surrounding words and the overall message can help decipher the intended mental state or emotion.
  3. Explicit instruction: Teachers and language materials can provide explicit explanations and examples of low salience psych predicates, highlighting their subtle differences in meaning and usage.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Are psych predicates only used in specific languages?

A: No, psych predicates exist in various languages and play a crucial role in expressing mental states and emotions.

Q: Can L2 learners fully acquire and use psych predicates?

A: Yes, with sufficient exposure, practice, and understanding of the Semantic Salience Hierarchy Model, L2 learners can acquire and use psych predicates effectively.


The Semantic Salience Hierarchy Model provides valuable insights into the L2 acquisition of psych predicates. By understanding the hierarchy of semantic salience and employing effective learning strategies, L2 learners can overcome the challenges associated with acquiring and using these complex linguistic structures. With practice and exposure, learners can express their thoughts and emotions accurately in their second language.