Lowie, W. & Verspoor, M.H.. (2004). Input Versus Transfer? - The Role of Frequency and Similarity in the Acquisition of L2 Prepositions. In Archard, M. & S. Niemeijer (Eds.), Cognitive Linguistics: Second Language Acquisition and

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Lowie, W. & Verspoor, M.H.. (2004). Input Versus Transfer? - The Role of Frequency and Similarity in the Acquisition of L2 Prepositions. In Archard, M. & S. Niemeijer (Eds.), Cognitive Linguistics: Second Language Acquisition and Foreign
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  Input Versus Transfer? – The Role of Frequency and Similarity in theAcquisition of L2 Prepositions Wander Lowie and Marjolijn Verspoor  1.Introduction In cognitive linguistic theory, a usage-based approach to language, the notionof „entrenchment” is well known. „Entrenchment pertains to how frequentlya structure has been invoked and thus to the thoroughness of its mastery andthe ease of its subsequent activation” (Langacker 1991: 45). Entrenchmentis interrelated with input. Tomasello (2000: 70) points out that an importantaspect of first language (L1) learning is some form of imitative learning andthat „[i]t is also important that children seem to have special difficulties ingoing beyond what they have heard when they have heard it multiple times,that is, when it is entrenched.” Also, in second language (L2) acquisition, therole of entrenchment (operationalised as input or frequency of occurrence)has been accepted by many as one of the most decisive factors in acquiringa second language (cf. Ellis 1994: Chapter 7). Of course, in L2 acquisitionthe first language also plays a role, and the more related the L1 and L2 are,the easier the learner finds it to learn the L2 (cf. Ellis 1994: Chapter 8). For example, Dutch students learning English have the advantage of many cog-nates such as Dutch breken and English break  . 1 In this paper, we will examinethe role of these two variables, similarity between L1 and L2 versus fre-quency of L2 input (“entrenchment”), in the acquisition of L2 over time. Todo so, we will make use of an interactive activation model of the mentallexicon – a model very much in line with the cognitive notion and functionof entrenchment – that predicts that a frequently occurring word will have ahigher level of activation than a word that is scarcely used. For students beginning to learn a second language, only the L1 is activated to a highdegree, and therefore similarity would play a major role, but the more a stu-dent is exposed to the L2, the more the frequency of occurrence in L2 will play a role.  2. Similarity and Frequency in the Bilingual Mental Lexicon Recent (psycholinguistic) models of the mental lexicon tend to agree on thegeneral contents of an item in the lexicon. Each item will refer to at leastthree separate units of information, semantics, syntax, and phonology/orthography, which are divided between lemmas and lexemes.Following Levelt (1989), the lemmas are referred to as abstract units com- prising the syntactic and semantic information, whereas the lexemes refer tothe orthographic and phonological information associated with a lexicalitem, as illustrated in Figure 1.  Figure 1. The basic components of a lexical item. In interactive activation models of the mental lexicon (cf. Lowie 1998,2000; Schreuder & Baayen 1995) the lexical item is represented in a similar manner. Here each lexical representation comprises a lemma node, which isthe central node linking the semantic-pragmatic information, the syntactic properties, and the orthographic-phonological information (the lexeme).The model takes a compositional view on the relation between the semanticcontents of the lexical item and the conceptual representations associatedwith it, in which the latter must be seen as the different aspects of semanticcontent of a word. Through a mechanism of activation and inhibition, thelevel of “resting” activation is primarily determined by the frequency of alexical item. Afrequently occurring word will have a higher level of activa-tion than a word that is scarcely used. Figure 2 schematically represents asimplified representation of an item in the mental lexicon. Although differ-ent lemmas may share conceptual representations, no two lemmas in themental lexicon can refer to a fully identical set of conceptual representa-tions. In other words, this model allows partially overlapping word mean-ings, but it will not allow pure synonyms, as these would entail fully redun-dant items in the lexicon. 78 Wander Lowie and Marjolijn Verspoor  lemmaslexemes  This image of lexical item in the mental lexicon can be adjusted to the bilin- gual  lexicon by assuming an additional source of information linked to thelemma node referring to the language a lexical item is associated with. Theitems associated with a particular language can be regarded as a subset of the lexicon (cf. Lowie 1998; Woutersen 1997).Aquestion that is relevant to the bilingual mental lexicon is whether and towhat extent L2 learners make use of the lexical knowledge from their firstlanguage in the acquisition and use of the second language. As the adult L2learner possesses a fully developed lexicon, it makes sense to assume thatan L2 learner will make use of the knowledge already required. Aquestionthat is central in current debates on the bilingual mental lexicon is whether L2 words have direct links with conceptual memory or are accessed throughL1 lemmas present in the lexicon. Recently, Nan Jiang (2000) argued thatthe role of the first language differs in three stages of development. In thefirst stage, L2 forms are mapped onto existing (L1) meanings. At this stage,an “empty” L2 lemma is created that is linked to a L1 lemma: the L2 lexicalitem only has the formal characteristics and full equivalence to an L1 lexicalitem is assumed and there is no direct link from the L2 lemma to conceptualcontent. At the second stage, the information of an existing L1 lemma iscopied onto the L2 lemma: this is the situation where the L1 lemma mediatesL2 word processing; now there is a link from the L2 lemma to both concep-tual content and the L1 lemma. Only at the third stage will the L1 lemma nolonger be accessed and a direct link has been created between the conceptualrepresentation and the L2 lemma. Jiang’s model sketches a picture similar to the one proposed by, for instance, Kroll (1993), in which lexical items inL1 and L2 are connected:  Input Versus Transfer? 79Lexeme    C  o  n  c  e  p   t  u  a   l  r  e  p  r  e  s  e  n   t  a   t   i  o  n LemmanodeSemanticFormSyntactic properties  Figure 2 . Asimplified representation of a lexical item in the mental lexicon.   Figure 3.  Nan Jiang’s model Although this model conveniently explains what Jiang calls “lexical fos-silization”, it cannot account for the fact that lexical items in L1 and L2hardly ever fully overlap in meaning. In a model that takes compositionalmeanings as a starting point, this can be accounted for much more easily.By referring to the activation metaphor, it is no longer necessary to distin-guish between different ways of lexical organization; activation modelshypothesize that all individual lexical entries are stored identically, but thatmajor differences between the entries can be expected based on their fre-quency, expressed by their relative level of activation. L1 entries are never directly linked to L2 entries, but information shared between the languageswill result in activation feedback flowing to the lemma nodes concerned. Inother words, L1 and L2 entries can never be lexically mediated, but arealways conceptually mediated to a degree dependent on the relative activa-tion of the conceptual representations, the lemma nodes, and the lexemes.Similar to how partially overlapping meanings in the monolingual mentallexicon can be accounted for, this model can also account for overlappingmeanings between L1 and L2. Figure 4 exemplifies the partial overlap between a Dutch and an English item in the bilingual mental lexicon.The same framework can also be used to account for the development  of the bilingual mental lexicon. At initial stages of L2 acquisition, a full overlapmay be assumed between the conceptual representations of the L1 lemmaand the L2 lemma. Gradually, the differences between the L1 and the L2lemma will be acquired, which may eventually lead to a “native-like” lexicalrepresentation. This process can be entirely based on positive evidence andis guided by the same principle of contrast that is at work in L1 acquisition(cf. Clark 1993). When the learner encounters a new L2 word, this may leadto the partial restructuring of the semantic form of existing concepts byadding or deleting the match with some of the conceptual representations.This process is exemplified in Figure 5. 2 At some early stage of acquisition(t 1 ), the Dutch learner of English will assume full overlap between between and among  , since Dutch does not make this conceptual distinction. 3 Subsequently, the principle of contrast will ensure that the learner will not 80 Wander Lowie and Marjolijn Verspoor  L1 wordL2 wordconcept  accept two fully identical lemmas, leading to the discovery of the semanticdifferences between between and among  . This will then lead to restructuringof the semantic form of  between and the creation of a new lexical item among  . The ultimate result of the acquisition process can be a “balanced” bilingual lexicon in which all semantic forms of all lemmas have been fullyspecified. However, cases where this happens for all lexical entries in bothlanguages will be highly exceptional, as most bilinguals will not be fully“balanced”. The additional advantage of this approach is that it is no longer necessary to assume the same stage of development for entire language sub-sets. While some L2 lexical items may be fully developed, including allsemantic and syntactic regularities and restrictions, other items may be foundin different stages of acquisition.  Figure 4. An example of partial overlap between lexical entries in L1 and L2. Inthis simplified representation, the different units of information associatedwith a lemma (semantic, syntactic, language) have been collapsed. After this elaboration of the interactive activation model of the bilingualmental lexicon, let us now return to our main question: what is the role of the first language in the acquisition of lexical items in L2? In the interactiveactivation model, cross-linguistic similarity can be expected to affect theacquisition of L2 lexical items at two levels. First, it can be expected tooccur on the left-hand side of the model, at the end of the phonological /orthographic representations. Orthographic and phonological similarity toL1 lexical items may affect the acquisition of L2 lexical items. This effectmay be facilitating in the case of cognates, but can be confusing whenorthographic and phonological similarity does not coincide with semantic  Input Versus Transfer? 81 DUTCHHONESTFAIR ADJ+ABSTR ENGLISH eerlijk fair 
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