Chapter 7. Vocabulary attrition in adult speakers of Spanish as a second language

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This paper examines the vocabulary attrition of fifteen adult English-speaking learners of Spanish who had reached high levels of Spanish proficiency through 18 to 24 months of residence in Spanish-speaking countries as missionaries. Approximately forty minutes of speech was recorded for the subjects on each of four occasions over a period of fifteen years following their separation from the host country in which Spanish was used. Using a framework derived from Nation (2001), the paper examines various aspects of the kinds of knowledge lost by the subjects including their knowledge of the forms of words, the inflectional and derivational morphology associated with these words, the meanings of the words, the grammatical constraints placed on the words, and the use of the words in various collocations. The data on attrition are discussed in terms of various accounts of vocabulary acquisition and loss, including those of Meara (2004) Kroll and Sunderman (2003) and Nation (2001).


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