The Bilingual Lexicon from a Developmental Perspective : A Word Association Study of Persian-Swedish Bilinguals
Sammanfattning: Some studies have shown that the L1 mental lexicon is organized mainly on a semantic basis, while the organization of the L2 mental lexicon in the early stages of development is phonologically based, that is non-semantic, indicating a less profound lexical knowledge and eliciting a higher degree of nonnative-like associations. This study examines whether or not this is the case. The subjects of the study are 100 Persian-Swedish bilinguals between the ages of 6 and 22 who are students in the Swedish comprehensive and upper secondary schools. There are also 50 native speakers of each language, Swedish and Persian, who make up the comparison groups. The elicitation instrument is a word association test that contains 100 relatively common nouns and adjectives. The subjects’ task is to associate freely, giving a single-word response to each stimulus word.The results of this study show that phonologically-based associations occur in both the first and the second language as a function of the degree of word knowledge. It is contended that phonologically-based organization of the mental lexicon is not a characteristic of the stage of language proficiency as has been claimed, but is a primary acquisition feature of every individual word, whether in the L1 or the L2.The results of the study also show that there are great similarities between the L1 and the L2 in terms of developmental stages in word acquisition. It is contended that the mode of organization of the words at different stages of development may differ. Words that are barely known may elicit phonologically-based associations. Those that are partially known may have a strong syntactic organization, and finally, well-known words are connected to other words mainly on a semantic basis.A four-level model is also adopted to study the notion of native and nonnative-likeness in the L1 and the L2. The results show that there are variations in the responses of all groups, meaning that groups are characterized by both typicality and atypicality in their responses, but bilinguals are more idiosyncratic in both of their languages than native speakers. In all of the groups, subjects at the upper grade levels are more typical in their responses than those at the lower grade levels. These results indicate that the typicality of responses is a function of the degree of word knowledge.
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