Word Learning in Adults With Second-Language Experience: Effects of Phonological and Referent Familiarity Purpose The goal of this research was to examine whether phonological familiarity exerts different effects on novel word learning for familiar versus unfamiliar referents and whether successful word learning is associated with increased second-language experience. Method Eighty-one adult native English speakers with various levels of Spanish knowledge learned ... Research Article
Research Article  |   April 01, 2013
Word Learning in Adults With Second-Language Experience: Effects of Phonological and Referent Familiarity
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Margarita Kaushanskaya
    University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • Jeewon Yoo
    University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • Stephanie Van Hecke
    University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • Correspondence to Margarita Kaushanskaya: kaushanskaya@wisc.edu
  • Editor and Associate Editor: Janna Oetting
    Editor and Associate Editor: Janna Oetting×
Article Information
Development / Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Speech, Voice & Prosody / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   April 01, 2013
Word Learning in Adults With Second-Language Experience: Effects of Phonological and Referent Familiarity
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, April 2013, Vol. 56, 667-678. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2012/11-0084)
History: Received April 2, 2011 , Revised November 13, 2011 , Accepted August 9, 2012
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, April 2013, Vol. 56, 667-678. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2012/11-0084)
History: Received April 2, 2011; Revised November 13, 2011; Accepted August 9, 2012
Web of Science® Times Cited: 3

Purpose The goal of this research was to examine whether phonological familiarity exerts different effects on novel word learning for familiar versus unfamiliar referents and whether successful word learning is associated with increased second-language experience.

Method Eighty-one adult native English speakers with various levels of Spanish knowledge learned phonologically familiar novel words (constructed using English sounds) or phonologically unfamiliar novel words (constructed using non-English and non-Spanish sounds) in association with either familiar or unfamiliar referents. Retention was tested via a forced-choice recognition task. A median-split procedure identified high-ability and low-ability word learners in each condition, and the two groups were compared on measures of second-language experience.

Results Findings suggest that the ability to accurately match newly learned novel names to their appropriate referents is facilitated by phonological familiarity only for familiar referents but not for unfamiliar referents. Moreover, more extensive second-language learning experience characterized superior learners primarily in one word-learning condition: in which phonologically unfamiliar novel words were paired with familiar referents.

Conclusions Together, these findings indicate that phonological familiarity facilitates novel word learning only for familiar referents and that experience with learning a second language may have a specific impact on novel vocabulary learning in adults.

Acknowledgments
This research was supported, in part, by the Language Learning Grant to the first author. We thank Lindsey Nichols Masaki for her help with stimulus recordings and Lauren Reeves, Samantha Smith, Julie Winer, Marni Garfinkel, Jenna Osowksi, and Melissa Stern for their assistance with script programming, data collection, and data coding.
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