Review of the Literature


Vocabulary Attrition among EFL
       Persian Learners




    in Three Recent Decades




    ...
Introduction

The study of language attrition has recently emerged as a new field of study. The

conception of loss in lan...
language"(p.79). Tomiyama (1999) pointed out that acquisition and attrition might occur

at the same time (p.61).

De Bot ...
Cognitive Processes & Causes of Attrition

Smith (2002, as cited in Kopke and Schmid, 2004) pointed out "that language att...
(1986, as cited in Tomiyama, 2000 b) as that the degree of markedness determines the

occurrence of transfer. The second h...
greatest influence on attrition primarily during the acquisition period by influencing the

level of competence acquired" ...
Rate & Pattern of Attrition

In 1999, Tomiyama remarked that L1 and L2 attrition set in within six months of non-

use. Su...
there are many aspects of a word that should be learned because many aspects of a word

also might undergo attrition.

In ...
vocabulary is "response competition". The second process is called "associative

unlearning" whereby practice on interferi...
REFERENCES



Ammerlaan, R. (1996). “You get a bit wobbly...” Exploring bilingual lexical retrieval
     processes in the ...
Jaspaert, K., Kroon, S. & Hout, R. V. (1986). Points of reference in first-language loss
       research. In Weltens et al...
Pearson, M. (2007). L2 influence and L1 attrition in adults bilingualism. In M. Schmid et
       al. (Eds.), First languag...
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Review of the Litreture, in Three Recent Decades

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Review of the Litreture, in Three Recent Decades

  1. 1. Review of the Literature Vocabulary Attrition among EFL Persian Learners in Three Recent Decades Dr. Azadeh Asgari February 2010
  2. 2. Introduction The study of language attrition has recently emerged as a new field of study. The conception of loss in language skills occurred in a conference at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) in 1980. In literature, the term 'language loss' and 'language attrition' have been used interchangeably. This is because language loss suggests that linguistic information is totally removed from the memory of an individual, whereas in language attrition, linguistic information becomes inaccessible to the individual (Kopke, 2004). Language attrition is preferred in comparison to language loss whereby many psycholinguistics claimed that something which is committed to long term memory cannot be ever removed (Weltens and Grendel, 1993). The taxonomical framework is proposed by Van Els (1986, as cited in Kopke and Schimd, 2004) which has been classified into the following categories: 1. L1 loss in L1 environment: Dialect loss 2. L1 loss in L2 environment: Immigrant 3. L2 loss in L1 environment: Foreign language attrition 4. L2 loss in L2 environment: Language reversion in elderly people Hansen (2001a) remarked that "language attrition has been studied for two reasons; first of all, researchers have taken interest in knowing attrition processes and then, it has got considerable pedagogical implications"(p.67). Schmid (2006), "there are many forms of attrition, and one type takes place when foreign language learners are in contact with the 1
  3. 3. language"(p.79). Tomiyama (1999) pointed out that acquisition and attrition might occur at the same time (p.61). De Bot and Weltens (1995, as cited in Murtagh, 2003) pointed out that attrition refers to the loss of language skills in an individual which gradually has became the focus of researchers in applied linguistics since 1980. The process of attrition is akin to being unable to find something which one has misplaced (Hansen, 1999). Levelt (1989, as cited in Murtagh, 2003) claimed that in normal speech, a speaker processes words at a high speed up to 300 words per minute or five words per second. According to Paradis (1993), the activation threshold of language attrition rises after a period of language disuse. For activation or recovery of linguistic items from the occurrence of language attrition, various degrees of stimulation are needed depending on their frequency of use. Stages in Language Attrition Weltens and Grendel (1993) suggested that "the first stage of language attrition that it takes longer to retrieve the required information, and the next stage, may be the required information becomes inaccessible"(p.135). Hansen (2001a) stated that the first sign of language attrition is not the loss of certain items but rather an increase in the length of time which is needed for their retrieval. Smith (2002, as cited in Kopke, 2007), stages of language attrition are classified into three stages. Smith remarks that the first stage of attrition can be characterized by the deviation in performance of attriters while their competence remains intact. In the second stage, the attriter is in the possession of a new extremely conditioned variety of his/her language. 2
  4. 4. Cognitive Processes & Causes of Attrition Smith (2002, as cited in Kopke and Schmid, 2004) pointed out "that language attrition is not the consequence of lack of L1 use alone; but first language is generally replaced by another language and this language is often assumed to influence the process of L1 attrition"(p.135). Smith (2002, as cited in Kopke and Schmid, 2004) hypothesized that "transfer is one of the most important processes which determine attrition"(p.156). This hypothesis called cross-linguistic interference has been adopted by many researchers and supported by many studies. Seliger (1991, as cited in Schmid, 2004) asserted that . . . "In the absence of L1 input, L2 could be taken as a source of indirect positive evidence and that as result of this, L2 rules which are formally less complex and have wider linguistic distribution will replace more complex and more narrowly distributed L1 rules serving the semantic function"(p.12). Pavlenko (2002, as cited in Kopke and Schmid, 2004) remarked that the transfer from L2 undeniably plays a role in L1 attrition; on the contrary, Kopke (1999, as cited in Kopke and Schmid, 2004) pointed out that transfer is not the only source of linguistic change in L1 attrition. However, Paradis (1985, as cited in Tomiyama, 2000b) remarked that "language transfer is a fundamental process in loss" (p.29). With regard to the cause of attrition, Yamgur (2004) stated that "Depending on the approach to attrition within which researchers work, different theories and hypotheses concerning language loss have been postulated. Taking contact linguistic, sociolinguistic, language change or acquisition perspectives bring about varying hypotheses about the causes of language loss. Due to this inconsistency there are no commonly agreed definitions of language attrition, loss, or shift as yet" (p.135). Based on the previous attrition studies, some hypotheses have supported the account of how and when transfer occurs. The first hypothesis of transfer is proposed by Kerlinger 3
  5. 5. (1986, as cited in Tomiyama, 2000 b) as that the degree of markedness determines the occurrence of transfer. The second hypothesis is put forward by Waas (1996, as cited in Tomiyama, 2000b) "only if L1 and L2 have structures meeting a crucial similarity measure will there be interference" (p.131). Consequently, in the context of L1 attrition, the similarity of L1 and L2 is a necessary condition for transfer to occur. Important Variables in Attrition Studies At the first conference of language loss, Gardener and Macintyre (1993) stated that affective factors influence the amount of language retention and language attrition. In 1999, Nagasawa found that those participants whose motivation decreased over the school year used Japanese little outside the class. Those who are motivated will seek more opportunities to use the language during the period of disuse; that is why they can retain much more linguistic information (Hansen & Shewell, in press). Oxford (1982) proposed that studies in the field of EFL/ESL attrition would inform language teachers regarding the long-term effect of their teaching methodology. Results of research reported that there is a high and positive correlation between personality factors, such as attitude, motivation and language maintenance. In Canada, Gardner, Lalonde and Macpherson (1985, as cited in Hansen and Shewell, in press) carried out a study which displayed a high degree of correlation was displayed between less favorable attitude and lower language use with attrition of speaking and understanding skill as reported on a can-do scale but not with attrition of reading. Gardner et al. (1985) suggested that "the attitudinal motivational factors may exert their 4
  6. 6. greatest influence on attrition primarily during the acquisition period by influencing the level of competence acquired" (p.531). Ebbinghaun (1885, as cited in Weltens and Grendel, 1993) elaborated that there is a positive correlation between proficiency level and amount of attrition. Kuhberg (1992, as cited in Kopke and Schmid, 2004) stated that educational level of subject, is also another factor playing an important role in L2 attrition studies. Educational level can also be the cause of absence of attrition in some studies. (Ammerlaan (1996), Bouba et al. (2002), Gurel (2004) as cited Kopke and Schmid, 2004) cited that another factor which affects L2 attrition in foreign language environments is length of stay abroad. Empirical evidence indicated that after a short period of stay in an L2 environment, reversal of language dominance occurs and is manifested by faster picture naming in second language than L1. Hutz (2004) remarked that "L1 attrition studies have not reached conclusive evidence about the effect of time on L1 attrition"(p.193). Montrul (2002, as cited in Kopke and Schmid, 2004) pointed out that this degree of erosion may be to the extent that psycho and neurolinguistic methods can detect no trace of it. Reetz-Kurashige (1999) maintained that such factors such as personal characteristics of returnees, age, length of time abroad, length of time back, the proficiency level at study onset and high competence at the onset of the study were the most predictive variables for amount of L2 retention., Reetz-Kurashige claimed that "it is not one factor but a combination of factors that predict strong maintenances, near-native speaking English ability was practically a requirement for minimal attrition" (p.41). 5
  7. 7. Rate & Pattern of Attrition In 1999, Tomiyama remarked that L1 and L2 attrition set in within six months of non- use. Subjects in different past studies underwent different rates of attrition. In the attrition field, lack of longitudinal studies makes it difficult to investigate the actual rate of attrition. Bahrick (1984) exhibited that attrition sets in within the first few years and then it levels off after six years for a period of 25 years. Weltens (1989, as cited in Murtagh, 2003) demonstrated that a small rate of attrition take place within the first two years of the four year interval. Tomiyama (1999) exhibited that learner's productive skill in the lexicon was first attrited while their receptive skill was immune. Learning and Relearning Vocabulary In 1986, Cohen declared that "each exposure to a word has the potential of increasing learner's depth of knowledge about that word"(p.146). Cohen claimed that some words come into learners‟ vocabulary very easily without much attention whereas some others need conscious effort involving either rote repetition or organizational techniques. Each vocabulary - spoke and writing form- has certain characteristics including conceptual and indicating meaning in the context in which it can be used and the syntactic restrictions that language imposes on the word. Cohen (1986) noted that the most obvious type of forgetting vocabulary involves forgetting the conceptual or denotative meaning of a word or its spoken or written form. Furthermore, he believed that 6
  8. 8. there are many aspects of a word that should be learned because many aspects of a word also might undergo attrition. In 2000, De Bot and Stoessel conducted a study on the difference between learning and relearning of vocabulary. In this research the German participants relearned those L2 Dutch words that subjects claimed they forgot. results of this study displayed that subjects who knew words before showed development. Hansen (2001) stated that the words that are to be learned for the first time in L1/L2 cannot reach the required activation level as fast as forgotten words reach through relearning. Attrition in Vocabulary & Grammar Based on a study conducted by Pearson et al. (2007) vocabulary learning has recently become significant after being dormant for fifteen years. Besides that, according to the findings of a study by Rose (1999), Asian students who were made compulsory to learn English language often had low motivation to the extent that their grammatical competence overrode their communicative competence. According to Pearson et al. (2007), receptive vocabulary is larger than productive vocabulary where receptive includes many words for full definitions and explanations. Bromberg (2001) elaborated on the relationship between concrete and abstract nouns as similar to the relationship of subordinate-superordinate. A concrete noun is known to be „more picturesque‟, than its superordinate. Cohen (1986) suggested that "there are several processes and mechanism which account for the forgetting of vocabulary learned in context". The first process for the forgetting of 7
  9. 9. vocabulary is "response competition". The second process is called "associative unlearning" whereby practice on interfering items destroys prior associations to the same stimulus. L1 Attrition vs. L2 Attrition Jaspert, Kroon and Hout (1986, as cited in Yamgur, 2004) recommended that for L1 attrition the most appropriate way for measuring language attrition is carrying out longitudinal studies. The distinction between necessary loan words and strategic borrowing is that in the earlier the borrowing might be considered a lexical communication strategy. In 2004, Hunts has not made a clear-cut distinction between the two categories. In association with code-switching, Tomiyama (1999) indicated that "code-switching is an un-observes phenomenon in the process of second language attrition (e.g., Olshtain 1989; Khuberg, 1992) as well as L1 attrition (e.g.,Kaufman & Aronoff, 1991; Turian & Altenberg, 1991)"(p.63). Kuhberg (1992) divided language attrition process from the perspective of code-switching into the three stages: 1) No code-switching, 2) Predominantly free morpheme code-switching and some bound morpheme code- switching, 3) Increased code-switching; some free morpheme code-switching and prevalently bound morpheme code-switching. In 1999, Tomiyama demonstrated that "switched utterances occurred in interjections, conversational fillers and emotional utterances such as expressing frustration and excitement"(p.62). 8
  10. 10. REFERENCES Ammerlaan, R. (1996). “You get a bit wobbly...” Exploring bilingual lexical retrieval processes in the context of first language attrition. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, Nijmegen: Katholieke University Nijmegen. Bahrick, H. (1984). Fifty years of second language attrition: Implications for programmatic research. The Modern Language Journal, 68, pp.105- 118. Bromberg, M. (2001). Absolutely Essential Words. USA: Barron‟s educational service. Cohen, A. (1975). Forgetting a foreign language. Language Learning, 25, pp.127-138. Cohen, A. (1986). Forgetting foreign language vocabulary. In B.Weltens, K.de Bot & T. Van Els (Eds.), Language Attrition In Progress. Dordrecht, the Netehrlands: Foris. Cohen, A. (1989). Attrition in the productive lexicon of two Portuguese Third language speakers. SSLA, 11, pp.135-149. De Bot, K.& Stoessel, S. (2000). In search of yesterday‟s words: Reactivating a long forgotten language. Applied Linguistics, 21/3, pp.333-353. De Bot, K. & Weltens, B. (1995). Foreign language attrition. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 15, pp.151-164. Ebbinghaus, H. (1885). Über das gedächtnis. Untersuchungen zur experimentellen psychologie. Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot. Grendel, M. (1993). Verlies en Herstel van Lexicale Kennis. (Attrition an recovery of lexical knowledge). Ph.D. thesis, University of Nijmegen, Nijmegen. Gurel, A. (2004). Selectivity in L2-induced L1 attrition: a psycholinguistic account. Journal of Neurolinguistics, Vol.17, pp.53-78. Hansen, L. (1999). Not a total loss: The attrition of Japanese negation over three decades. In L. Hansen (Ed.), Second Language Attrition In Japanese Contexts (pp.142- 153). New York: Oxford University Press. Hansen, L. (2001a). Language attrition: The fate of the start. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 21, pp. 60-73. Hutz, M. (2004). Is there a natural process of decay? A longitudinal study of language attrition. In M. Schmid et al. (Eds.), First Language Attrition (pp.189-206). USA: John Benjamins North America. 9
  11. 11. Jaspaert, K., Kroon, S. & Hout, R. V. (1986). Points of reference in first-language loss research. In Weltens et al. (eds.). language attrition in progress, pp.37-49. Kerlinger, F. (1986). Foundations of educational research. New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart & Wineston. Kopke, B. (2004). Neurolinguistics aspects of attrition. Journal of Neurolinguistics, Vol.7 Kopke, B. (2007). Language attrition at the crossroads of brain, mind, and society. In B. Köpke/M. Schmid/M. Keijzer/Susan Dostert (ed.): Language Attrition. Theoretical perspectives, 9–37, Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Kuhberg, H. (1992). Longitudinal L2-attrition versus L2-acquisition in three Turkish children-Empirical findings. Second Language Research 8(2), pp.138-154. Montrul, S. (2002). Incomplete acquisition and attrition of Spanish tense/ aspect distinctions in adult bilinguals. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition 5. Murtagh, L. (2003). Theoretical and empirical issues in second language attrition. Retrieved July 1, 2005, from www. Ub.rug.nl/eldoc/dis/arts/l.murtagh/thesis.pdf Nae, N. (2004). In Defense of Translation. NUCB Journal of language Culture and Communication,6(1), pp.35-446. March 2007. Nagasawa, S. (1999). Learning and losing Japanese as a second language: A multiple case study of American university students. In L. Hansen (Ed.), Second language attrition in Japanese contexts (pp.169-199). New York: Oxford University Press. Olshtain, E. (1986). The attrition of English as a second language with speakers of Hebrew. In B. Weltens, K. de Bot and T. van Els (Eds.), Language Attrition in Progress, pp.187-204. Dordrecht: Foris. Oxford, R. (1982). Research on language loss: A review with implications for foreign language teaching. The Modern Language Journal, 66, pp.106-169. Paradis, M. (1993). Linguistic, psycholinguistic, and neurolinguistic aspects of „interference‟ in bilingual speakers: The Activation Threshold Hypothesis. International Journal of Psycholinguistics 9(2), pp.133-145. Paradis, M. (1997). The cognitive neuropsychology of bilingualism. In A. M. B. de Pavlenko, A. (2002). Poststructuralist Approaches to the Study of Social Factors in L2.In V. Cook (Ed.), Portraits of the L2 User. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters. 10
  12. 12. Pearson, M. (2007). L2 influence and L1 attrition in adults bilingualism. In M. Schmid et al. (Eds.), First language attrition . USA: John Benjamins North America. Reetz-Kurashige, A. (1999). Japanese returnee‟s retention of English-speaking skills: Change in verb usage over time. In L. Hansen (Ed.) Second language attrition in Japanese contexts (pp.21-58). New York: Oxford University Press. Schmid, M. S. (2004). First Language Attrition: The Methodology Revised, International Journal of Bilingualism, 8, pp.239–255. Schmid, M. S. (2005). The Language Attrition Test Battery: A Research Manual. MS, University of Groningen. Schmid, M. S. (2006). Second language attrition. In K. Brown (Eds.), The Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics (Vol. 11, pp.74-81). Amsterdam: Elsevier. Seliger, H. W. (1991). Language Attrition, reduced redundancy and creativity. In H. W. Seliger & R. M. Vago (Eds.), First language attrition (pp. 227-240). Cambridge University Press. Smith, L. R. (2002). The social architecture of communicative competence: A methodology for social-network research in sociolinguistics. International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 153, pp.133-160. Tomiyama, M. (1999). The first stage of second language attrition: A case study of a Japanese returnee. In L. Hansen (Ed.). Second language attrition in Japanese contexts (pp.59-79). New York: Oxford University Press, Inc. Van, Els, T. (1986). An overview of European research on language attrition. In B.Weltens, K. de Bot and T. van Els (Eds.), Language Attrition in Progress (pp.318).Dordrecht: Foris. Weltens, B., & Grendel, M. (1993). Attrition of vocabulary knowledge. In R. Schreuder & B. Weltens (Eds.), The Bilingual Lexicon. (pp.135-156). Amsterdam: John Benjamin. Yamgur, K. (2004). Issues in finding the appropriate methodology in language attrition research. In M. Schmid et al. (Eds.), First language attrition (pp.133-164). USA: John Benjamin North America Yoshitomi, A. (1992). Towards a model of language attrition: Neurobiological and psychological contributions. ISSUES IN APPLIED LINGUISTICS 3(2). Yoshitomi, A. (1999). On the loss of English as a second language by Japanese returnee children. In L. Hansen (Ed.). Second language attrition in Japanese contexts (pp.80-111). New York: Oxford University Press. 11

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