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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

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Dissertation Information

Title: The Role of L1-Based Concepts in L2 Lexical Reference Add Dissertation
Author: Scott Jarvis Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Indiana University Bloomington
Completed in: 1997
Linguistic Subfield(s): Applied Linguistics;
Subject Language(s): English
Director(s): Kathleen Bardovi-Harlig

Abstract: Researchers have encountered substantial difficulties in explaining and predicting the effects of first language influence in second language acquisition, particularly in the area of lexical use. Here, first language influence can emerge both as formal and semantic effects. In this dissertation, I examine the semantic-conceptual aspects of first language influence on word choice in a second language. The hypotheses that guide this study are based on the cognitive linguistic theory of Experientialism, and they address the three types of evidence necessary to evaluate first language influence: within-group similarities, between-group differences, and congruencies in learners1 use of the first and second languages. The hypotheses were tested through a comparison of the referential word choices of Finnish-speaking and Swedish-speaking learners of English at different levels of age and proficiency. Experimental participants (n=210) were tested in English, and comparable control participants (n=110) were tested in their native languages. An additional group of native English speaking participants (n=66) was also tested.

Participants performed three tasks: (a) a written retell of a silent film, (b) listing of nouns and verbs appropriate to specific objects and events, and (c) a receptive judgment task to determine whether preselected nouns and verbs can refer to the aforementioned objects and events. The results indicate that learners show strong word-choice consistencies based on first language background, and that they also show moderate semantic agreement between their first- and second-language lexical choices. An unexpected result is that Finns and Swedes do not differ consistently from each other in their English word choices. However, this is largely predictable by the fact that they also do not differ consistently from each other in their L1 word choices. From the perspective of referential lexical development, the learner groups differ significantly from native speakers in their English word choices, and show little progression toward targetlike behavior in accordance with either age or L2 proficiency. The results are interpreted as indicating that first language influence is pervasive in second-language lexical use, although several factors combine to determine how conspicuous it will be.