Dissertation by Ton Ammerlaan (born 1960) Radbout University Nijmegen – 1996

Introduction: Language attrition, the gradual loss of one’s first language (LI) proficiency due to decreased exposure and use, has been a topic of interest in sociolinguistic and linguistic research. This article focuses on the nature of variables influencing lexical attrition among long-term Dutch expatriates living in Victoria, Australia. The aim is to determine the empirical verifiability of the expatriates’ claims of “forgetting their mother tongue” and identify which types of Dutch words are more susceptible to attrition. Additionally, the role of specific aspects of speech production in attrition is explored.

Theoretical Framework and Research Background: Previous sociolinguistic and linguistic research on lexical variables in language attrition provides a foundation for this study. Psychological research on forgetting sheds light on the term “attrition” and highlights the importance of retrieval processes in selective attrition. By integrating these findings, a comprehensive understanding of lexical attrition and its influential factors can be achieved.

Psycholinguistic Studies on Retrieval Processes: This section examines psycholinguistic studies that investigate the nature of retrieval processes in language production. Research on monolingual language processing and bilingual lexical retrieval processes provides insights into the effects of cross-linguistic similarity on word retention. Factors such as perceived similarity, complexity, learning context, fluency, and proficiency influence word access and retrieval, potentially leading to cross-linguistic interference.

Research Methodology: The study employs an experiment involving Dutch-Australian emigrants who no longer use their LI in Australia. The impact of cross-linguistic similarity on lexical attrition is assessed through various tasks, complemented by assessments of the emigrants’ biolinguistic background information. The experiment aims to determine the relationship between bilingual recall and recognition of different types of Dutch words and their English translation equivalents.

Findings and Discussion: The linguistic situation of the Dutch-Australian emigrants is outlined, including language usage, proficiency, and fluency. The picture-naming and identification experiment reveals insights into word retrieval processes and the effects of variables such as word length, frequency of occurrence, form-similarity, and biolinguistic background characteristics. Comparisons between naming and identification sessions shed light on the retention of cognates, frequency-based attrition patterns, and morphological and phonological similarities.

Conclusion: The findings suggest that lexical attrition in long-term Dutch expatriates in Australia is influenced by cross-linguistic interference. The study contributes to understanding the phenomenon of LI attrition by highlighting the role of retrieval processes and the effects of various lexical variables. Future research can build upon these findings to further explore language attrition and its implications from multiple perspectives.

Table of content

Title: Dissertation Outline – Variables Influencing First Language (LI) Attrition: A Study on the Lexicon of Long-Term Dutch Expatriates in Victoria, Australia Author: [Author’s Name]

Chapter 1: Theoretical Exposition of Lexical LI Attrition 1.1 Introduction 1.2 Previous Sociolinguistic Research on Lexical Variables in Language Attrition 1.3 Previous Linguistic Research on Lexical Variables in Language Attrition 1.4 Psychological Research on Forgetting and Selective Attrition

Chapter 2: Psycholinguistic Studies on Retrieval Processes 2.1 Introduction 2.2 Language Processes and Test Paradigms in Monolingual Research 2.3 Research on Bilingual Lexical Processing 2.4 Insights from Bilingual Speech Production and Levelt’s Framework 2.5 Effects of Cross-Linguistic Similarity on Lexical Retention

Chapter 3: Implications of Literature Reviews and Research Paradigms 3.1 Introduction 3.2 Investigation of Dutch-Australian Emigrants 3.3 Assessment of Cross-Linguistic Similarity and Biolinguistic Background

Chapter 4: Linguistic Situation of Dutch-Australian Emigrants 4.1 Introduction 4.2 Questionnaire-Based Assessment of Language Usage, Proficiency, and Fluency 4.3 Interrelations between Data Types

Chapter 5: Picture-Naming and Identification Experiment 5.1 Introduction 5.2 Investigation of Dutch Word Retrieval and Bilingual Processing 5.3 Analysis of Variables: Word Length, Frequency, Form-Similarity, and Biolinguistic Background 5.4 Comparison of Naming and Identification Sessions

Chapter 6: Results of the Experiment on Dutch-Australian Bilinguals 6.1 Introduction 6.2 Strategies Used by Bilinguals 6.3 Measurement of Proficiency Effects 6.4 Error Distribution Analysis in Naming and Identification Sessions 6.5 Distracters and Residual Proficiency in Dutch

Chapter 7: Summary of Findings and Discussion 7.1 Introduction 7.2 Relevance of Findings and Implications for Bilingual Lexical Processing 7.3 Suggestions for Further Study of LI Attrition and Strutch

Final Part: Abbreviations, References, and Appendices

Read the full dissertation here.