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First exposure learners make use of top-down lexical knowledge when learning new words


Multilingual individuals and multilingual societies


This chapter reports on an empirical study of word learning in a first exposure sample. The L1 was English; the target language was German. Target words were proper names that had to be matched to pictures on a forced-choice discrimination task. Half the names were cognates (words that sounded similar to English names). Results showed that all targets were segmentable and learnable but learners responded faster to cognate items and required fewer training trials to learn to criterion. The study provides evidence that even on first exposure, L2 sound forms that are acoustically distinct from L1 words are nonetheless activating L1 lexical entries and that previously acquired knowledge speeds up the learning task.


John Benjamins
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