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  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: November 2012

11 - The lexicon in second language attrition:



In this chapter, we expand the conceptual framework of research on second language attrition by invoking an expansive notion of the lexicon, which, in addition to vocabulary, contains items below the word level (i.e., affixes) and above the word level (i.e., phrasal structure stored in long-term memory). Although most syntactic structures are generated and then discarded, a vast number of phrases remain fixed in memory, such that procedural knowledge of grammar may be accessed through complex lexical items. In this light, all empirical research on second language attrition to date that offers evidence for ordering effects can be shown to involve issues of access to the mental lexicon. We examine how computational and psycholinguistic models of lexical activation and inhibition might be used to explain both catastrophic loss in cases of disuse, and apparently miraculous recovery in situations of re-immersion, as lexical retrieval breathes life into syntax.


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