Linguistics and English Language

Bilingualism reading group

Speaker: Maki Kubota

Title: The effect of individual factors on second language lexical attrition in bilingual returnee children

Abstract: The effect of individual factors on language change has been extensively debated in both L1 and L2 attrition studies. Specifically in L2 attrition, age and proficiency have shown to be contributing variables on the magnitude of attrition, but much of the evidence comes from qualitative studies (Reetz-Kurashige 1999, Tomiyama 2008, Flores 2015). The current study aims to fill in this gap by investigating the influence of age and proficiency on L2 lexical attrition in Japanese-English returnee children using quantitative analysis. Returnees in the current study are Japanese children who returned to Japan (L1 environment) after spending some years in an L2 English dominant-environment.

The participants were 36 Japanese-English bilingual returnee children (21 female; Mage first testing: 9:8; Mage second testing: 10:8). We used a verbal fluency (VF) task to measure the children’s lexical access ability. The returnee children were tested twice: the first test session took place approximately three months after their return to Japan, and the second test session was conducted a year later. In the first test session, we also administered an English proficiency test (sections include: reading, writing, listening and speaking) to the bilinguals in order to establish their baseline L2 proficiency.

The results showed that both age and length of residency (but not proficiency) contributed to the maintenance of L2 lexical knowledge in re-immersion to the L1 dominant-environment. The findings lend support to the maturational constraint in language attrition: the idea that it takes some time for the children’s language knowledge to be established and stabilize in the human brain (Flores 2015). In other words, the earlier the bilingual returnee children acquired L2 and the longer time they have had to go through the ‘stabilization phase’, the more resistant they become to attrition effects.


Please contact Lihua Xia or Martha Robinson to find out specific dates for this semester and/or to be added on the mailing list.

Lihua Xia

Martha Robinson


May 28 2018 -

Bilingualism reading group

2018-05-28: The effect of individual factors on second language lexical attrition in bilingual returnee children

Room S38, Psychology Building, 7 George Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9JZ