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LINGUIST List 19.1386

Thu Apr 24 2008

Diss: Applied Ling: Hellman: 'The Limits of Eventual Lexical Attain...'

Editor for this issue: Evelyn Richter <evelynlinguistlist.org>

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        1.    Andrea Hellman, The Limits of Eventual Lexical Attainment in Adult-Onset Second Language Acquisition

Message 1: The Limits of Eventual Lexical Attainment in Adult-Onset Second Language Acquisition
Date: 23-Apr-2008
From: Andrea Hellman <andreabhellmangmail.com>
Subject: The Limits of Eventual Lexical Attainment in Adult-Onset Second Language Acquisition
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Institution: Boston University
Program: Literacy, Language, and Cultural Studies
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2008

Author: Andrea Hellman

Dissertation Title: The Limits of Eventual Lexical Attainment in Adult-Onset Second Language Acquisition

Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics

Subject Language(s): English (eng)

Dissertation Director:
Mary Catherine O'Connor
John Read
Shanley Allen
Marnie Reed

Dissertation Abstract:

This study examined the ultimate attainment of adult-onset second language
(L2) learners in the lexical domain. A substantial body of research has
documented age of acquisition effects on the ultimate attainment of L2
learners in the domains of phonology and morphosyntax; however, only
limited data exist regarding the ultimate achievement of adult-onset L2
learners in the area of the lexicon, particularly vocabulary size and depth
of word knowledge. This study probed the upper limit of eventual L2 lexical
achievement by comparing a group of highly proficient adult-onset L2
learners with 10-52 years of significant exposure to the English (N = 33)
to two groups of comparably educated native speakers of English, a
monolingual group (N = 30) and a bilingual group (N = 30). Measures
included two vocabulary size tests (aural and written), and a depth of word
knowledge test. The results indicated that the L2 learner group was
significantly different from both native speaker groups due to lower mean
achievement on the aural vocabulary size measure. However, the rate of
native level achievement among the adult-onset L2 learners was 76%. Five
(15%) obtained scores above the native speaker mean on all three lexical
tasks; their characteristics were reported in case studies. Follow-up
exploratory analyses suggested that for the adult-onset L2 learners, 46% of
the variance on test scores was related to the linear combination of three
predictor variables: caregivers' education, verbal ability and literacy in
the native language, interest in new words and daily reading. For L2
vocabulary size and depth of word knowledge, the data in this study did not
signal the existence of a critical period for acquisition. The data showed
that the upper limit of L2 lexical achievement was native level vocabulary
size and depth of word knowledge even for those individuals who did not
start acquiring their second language until the third or fourth decade of
life. In addition, the study detected no effect for bilingual status on the
lexical measures among the native speakers. The findings constitute
evidence that the lexical domain may be the most successful area of
adult-onset L2 acquisition.

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