AdvisorForster, Kenneth I.
Committee ChairForster, Kenneth I.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractMost research in word recognition uses words that already exist in the reader's lexicon, and it is therefore of interest to see whether newly learned words are represented and processed in the same way as already known words. For example, are newly learned words immediately represented in a special form of lexical memory, or is there a gradual process of assimilation? As for L2 language learners, are newly learned words incorporated into the same processing system that serves L1, or are they represented quite independently?The current study examines this issue by testing for the existence of the Prime Lexicality Effect (PLE) observed in masked priming experiments (Forster & Veres, 1998). Strong form priming was found with nonword primes (e.g., contrapt-CONTRACT), but not with word primes (e.g., contrast-CONTRACT). This effect is generally assumed to result from competition between the prime and the target. So if the readers had been trained to treat "contrapt" as a new word, would it now function like a word and produce much weaker priming? Elgort (2007) demonstrated such an effect with unmasked primes with L2 bilinguals. The current study investigates the PLE in both L1 and L2 bilinguals under different training conditions. When the training program involves mere familiarization (learning to type the words), a PLE was found with visible primes, but not with masked primes, which suggests that unmasked PLE is not the best indicator of lexicalization. In the case of "real" acquisition where the new word is given a definition and a picture of the object it refers to, and learning is spread over two weeks, a clear PLE was obtained. However, when the same experiment was carried out on Chinese-English bilinguals using the same English materials, completely opposite results were obtained. The learning enhanced priming, rather than reducing it, suggesting that the L2 lexicon might differ qualitatively from the L1 lexicon. The implications of these results for competitive theories of lexical access are discussed, and alternative explanations are considered.
Degree ProgramSecond Language Acquisition & Teaching