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Accessing word meaning in beginning second language learners: Lexical or conceptual mediation?*

  • GREGORY J. POARCH (a1) (a2), JANET G. VAN HELL (a3) (a2) and JUDITH F. KROLL (a3)

We tested the predictions of the Revised Hierarchical Model (Kroll & Stewart, 1994) to examine how children map novel words to concepts during early stages of L2 learning. Fifth grade Dutch L2 learners with 8 months of English instruction performed a translation recognition task followed by translation production in both directions. The children were already sensitive to L2 word meaning in translation recognition, showing longer RTs and lower accuracies for semantically related than semantically unrelated word pairs. In translation production, they were faster in backward than forward direction as predicted by the RHM. Critically, these children had learned L2 words in contexts enriched by pictures and listening/speaking exercises. Depending on the task, Dutch beginning L2 learners exploit conceptual information during L2 processing and map L2 word-forms to concepts. This study also contributes to accumulating evidence that manner of L2 instruction may majorly impact the activation of lexical and conceptual information during translation.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Gregory J. Poarch, Department of English Linguistics, University of Tübingen, Wilhelmstr. 50, 72074 Tübingen,
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The writing of this paper was supported by DAAD Grant D/09/50588 to Gregory J. Poarch, NSF Grants BCS-0955090 and OISE-0968369 to Judith F. Kroll and Janet G. van Hell, NSF Grant BCS-1349110 to Janet G. van Hell, and NIH Grant HD053146 to Judith F. Kroll. We thank Linde Mannie and Evie van Heeswijk for their assistance in the data collection.

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Bilingualism: Language and Cognition
  • ISSN: 1366-7289
  • EISSN: 1469-1841
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