Comparing the trends of development in L2 and L1 mental lexicon : associations, vocabulary size, and reaction time

  • Neda Akbari

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Words are an important component of language in second language (L2) learning since words carry meaning, and the ability to communicate occurs through the meaning of words. The current study investigated the trend of development in the L2 mental lexicon (ML) from the three dimensions of associations, vocabulary size, and reaction time. The main purposes of this study were to determine whether the L2 ML had a similar trend of development to the first language (L1) ML if the L2 was learned in similar circumstances to the L1,and whether the L2 ML could resemble the L1 ML at some age. The participants in this study comprised the immigrant children aged 6-17 undertaking mainstream education in the L2 (English). A Word Association Task and the yes/no Lexical Decision Task were utilised in order to elicit the word associations and measure the vocabulary size and reaction time respectively. The findings of the present study revealed a relatively similar trend of development for the L2 and L1 ML with only slight discrepancies between them. The findings also demonstrated significant similarities between the L2 and L1 ML of students aged 15-17. These findings were discussed in the broader context of children’s cognitive and linguistic development. The impact of age and the environment on language learning was also explained.
Date of Award2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Canberra
SupervisorDeborah Hill (Supervisor), Eleni Petraki (Supervisor), Yili Li (Supervisor) & Tess Fitzpatrick (Supervisor)

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