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Length of residence: Does it make a difference in older bilinguals?

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Abstract

Among papers considering L2 performance, a subset take into account the length of residence (LOR) in the country where the L2 is spoken. In about half of these, LOR makes no difference for performance of at least one variable measured. Since those who reside in an L2 environment for many years tend to be older, the beneficial effects of longer LOR may at some point be counteracted by declines due to aging. This article draws on research in cognitive aging to consider how age could impact L2 performance. This is particularly important when investigating the effects of LOR or age of L2 acquisition since LOR, age of acquisition, and age at testing are linearly dependent variables, making conclusions based on any of these variables problematic. We argue that aging is a largely ignored confound in the literature on L2 attainment, particularly for studies that include older adults in their samples.

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... However, L2 use had a significant effect only on some of the vowels (/ɑ/, /ø/ and /y/). It is shown in [25] that across different studies the effect of LOR varies and in about half of the studies LOR did not have an effect on the results. Also, it is argued that LOR might affect some aspects of language more than others (for more details see [25]). ...
... It is shown in [25] that across different studies the effect of LOR varies and in about half of the studies LOR did not have an effect on the results. Also, it is argued that LOR might affect some aspects of language more than others (for more details see [25]). ...
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Few researchers would doubt that ultimate attainment in second language grammar is negatively correlated with age of acquisition, but considerable controversy remains about the nature of this relationship: the exact shape of the age-attainment function and its interpretation. This article presents two parallel studies with native speakers of Russian: one on the acquisition of English as a second language in North America (n = 76), and one on the acquisition of Hebrew as a second language in Israel (n = 64). Despite the very different nature of the languages being learned, the two studies show very similar results. When age at testing is partialed out, the data reveal a steep decline in the learning of grammar before age 18 in both groups, followed by an essentially horizontal slope until age 40. This is interpreted as evidence in favor of the critical period. Both groups show a significant correlation between ultimate attainment and verbal aptitude for the adult learners, but not for the early learners. This is interpreted as further evidence that the learning processes in childhood and adulthood not only yield different levels of proficiency but are also different in nature.
Article
Three groups of participants were given a grammaticality judgement test based on five structures of English grammar in both an oral and written form. The first group consisted of native speakers of Chinese, the second, native speakers of Spanish, and the third, native English speakers. The two learner groups were divided into those who had begun learning English at a younger (less than 15 years) or older (more than 15 years) age. Performance was measured for both accuracy of judgement and time taken to respond. The results showed that performance patterns were different for the two learner groups, that the linguistic structure tested in the item affected participants' ability to respond correctly, and that task modality produced reliable response differences for the two learner groups. Although there were proficiency differences in the grammaticality judgement task between the younger and older Spanish learners, there were no such differences for the Chinese group. Furthermore, age of learning influenced achieved proficiency through all ages tested rather than defining a point of critical period. The results are interpreted as failing to provide sufficient evidence to accept the hypothesis that there is a critical period for second language acquisition.
Article
Tip-of-the-tongue states (TOTs) in proficient Hebrew–English bilinguals were compared to those of age-matched monolinguals. Monolinguals retrieved words in English, and bilinguals retrieved words from both languages. Results showed an increased TOT rate in bilinguals. However, bilinguals demonstrated comparable rates of spontaneous resolution, and similar ability to access partial information about target words. Interestingly, bilinguals named the same number of targets as monolinguals when naming an item in either language was counted as a correct response. Besides bilingualism, other factors that predicted TOT rate included word frequency (only for bilinguals), and age (younger participants had more TOTs). Unexpectedly, TOTs for Hebrew targets were not characterized by increased access to grammatical gender and number of syllables relative to control states, thus contrasting notably with TOTs for Italian and English targets respectively. We discuss these results in terms of their relevance for constraining models of bilingual lexical access and models of TOT.
Article
This study examined pronunciation proficiency in both the first (Korean) and second (English) languages of bilinguals. The participants were adult immigrants whose age of arrival in the USA ranged from 1–23 years. English and Korean sentences were rated by native listeners to obtain measures of pronunciation proficiency. English pronunciation of participants with ages of arrival of 1–5 years was close to monolinguals, heavier accents were noted as ages of arrival increased from 6 to 23 years. Korean pronunciation of participants with ages of arrival of 1–7 years was distinctly accented, while those with ages of arrival of 12–23 years were rated the same as monolinguals. Participants with ages of arrival of 1–9 years pronounced English better than Korean, whereas the reverse was true for ages of arrival of 12–23 years. Overall, the results were more consistent with the view that deviations from native pronunciation result from interactions between the languages of bilinguals rather than with the view of a maturationally defined critical period for language learning.
Article
Native Spanish early and late acquirers of English as well as native Vietnamese early and child acquirers of English made grammaticality judgments of sentences in their second language. Native Spanish early acquirers were not distinguishable from native English speakers, whereas native Spanish late acquirers had difficulty with all aspects of the grammar tested except word order. Native Vietnamese early acquirers had difficulty with those aspects of English that differ markedly from Vietnamese. Native Vietnamese child acquirers had more generalized problems, similar to those of native Spanish late acquirers. Thus, native language appeared to make a difference for early acquirers, whereas a later age of acquisition caused a more general problem. A processing-based model focusing on the difficulty non-native language learners have in rapidly decoding surface form is offered as a possible explanation for both effects.
Article
This study examined the effect of second language (L2) age of acquisition and amount of experience on the production of word-final stop consonant voicing by adult native Korean learners of English. Thirty learners, who differed in amount of L2 experience and age of L2 exposure, and 10 native English speakers produced 8 English monosyllabic words ending in voiced and voiceless stops. These productions were presented to 10 English listeners for perceptual judgment and subjected to acoustic analyses to determine how well learners produced vowel duration and closure (stop gap) duration, two cues to stop consonant voicing. Results revealed that even learners with 10 years of L2 experience did not always produce stop consonant voicing accurately, that learners' age of acquisition influenced their production of both cues, that vowel duration was easier to learn than closure duration, and that English listeners used both these cues in their judgments of production accuracy.
Article
This study was designed to test the Fundamental Difference Hypothesis (Bley-Vroman, 1988), which states that, whereas children are known to learn language almost completely through (implicit) domain-specific mechanisms, adults have largely lost the ability to learn a language without reflecting on its structure and have to use alternative mechanisms, drawing especially on their problem-solving capacities, to learn a second language. The hypothesis implies that only adults with a high level of verbal analytical ability will reach near-native competence in their second language, but that this ability will not be a significant predictor of success for childhood second language acquisition. A study with 57 adult Hungarian-speaking immigrants confirmed the hypothesis in the sense that very few adult immigrants scored within the range of child arrivals on a grammaticality judgment test, and that the few who did had high levels of verbal analytical ability; this ability was not a significant predictor for childhood arrivals. This study replicates the findings of Johnson and Newport (1989) and provides an explanation for the apparent exceptions in their study. These findings lead to a reconceptualization of the Critical Period Hypothesis: If the scope of this hypothesis is limited to implicit learning mechanisms, then it appears that there may be no exceptions to the age effects that the hypothesis seeks to explain.
Article
The recent focus on the discourse level as the primary basis for explaining alternation in interlanguage tense marking is challenged on the basis of an analysis of tense marking for 16 Vietnamese speakers learning English as a second language. The subjects represent four different age levels (10–12, 15–18, 20–25, and 35–55) and two different length of residency groups (1–3 and 4–7 years). The analysis reveals that there are a number of surface-level constraints that systematically affect the incidence of tense marking, including the distinction between regular and irregular verbs, the shape of the suffix on the regular verb, the following phonological environment, the type of irregular formation, and the relative frequency of the verb form. It is demonstrated that the analysis of tense marking in terms of higher-level language organization must take into account these kinds of surface constraints if it hopes to provide a valid, empirically based account of tense marking alternation in interlanguage.
Chapter
IntroductionOperational Definitions of AutomaticityAutomaticity in Skill Development and SLAAutomaticity in SLAPedagogical Implications of AutomaticitySummary and Conclusion