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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 Limits of Eventual Lexical Attainment in Adult-Onset Second Language Acquisition Add Dissertation
Author: Andrea Hellman Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Boston University, Literacy, Language, and Cultural Studies
Completed in: 2008
Linguistic Subfield(s): Applied Linguistics;
Subject Language(s): English
Director(s): John Read
Shanley Shanley
Mary O'Connor
Marnie Reed

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.