CLS Talks: Katie von Holzen

Thursday 21 March 2024, 4 pm

Foreign language processing before instruction: Speech segmentation in pre-EFL children

One of the first steps in acquiring a new language is segmenting the continuous speech stream to find individual word forms. When segmenting a foreign language (FL), adults continue to apply sublexical (phonotactic) cues from their L1 (Finn & Hudson Kam, 2008), as well as show facilitation for words overlapping in form and meaning with their L1 equivalents (i.e. cognates: English: /kraʊn/; German: /kroːnə/; noncognate: English: /skɪn/; German: /haʊ̯t/; Shoemaker & Rast, 2013). In two studies, we examine whether these sublexical and lexical L1 effects extend to elementary school children before they have received FL instruction and whether their general segmentation skills are supported by their developing phonological awareness skills (Anthony & Francis, 2005; Hu, 2014).

85 German 6- to 9-year-olds listened to English sentences followed by an isolated probe-word that either did (familiar) or did not (novel) appear in the sentence and indicated via button press whether they had heard the probe word in the sentence. In Study 1, target pseudowords appeared in a context which provided a clear L1-German phonotactic cue to a word boundary (e.g., lv; dal_vouchen) or an L1-ambiguous cue (kv; dack_vouchen). In Study 2, target words were English-German cognate and noncognate words (She reduced her crown/skin mursk to poverty). Phonological awareness was measured in a phoneme-manipulation task (Bialystok et al., 2003).

Participants were able to segment and subsequently recognize unknown FL words from the sentences, an ability that increased with increasing phonological awareness skills. Unlike adult FL learners, there was no evidence of use of L1 sublexical phonotactic cues (Experiment 1) or benefit from form-based lexical overlap with their L1 (Experiment 2). In comparison to adult FL learners, however, school-aged children are still developing their L1 knowledge, which may impact their use of (sub)lexical L1 cues in initial FL segmentation.

CLS Talks

CLS Talks showcase research done within the Centre for Language Studies (CLS) with the aim to increase awareness of the ongoing research in the institute, and to facilitate discussions and collaborations between researchers. In addition, several external speakers are invited to share their work. 

The sessions take place every month on Thursdays at 16:00 and are open to all interested researchers.

Thursday 21 March 2024, 4 pm
Katie von Holzen (TU Braunschweig)
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