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Access to Language and Cognitive Development$
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Michael Siegal and Luca Surian

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199592722

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199592722.001.0001

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Access to childhood language memory: Implications for cognitive development

Access to childhood language memory: Implications for cognitive development

(p.176) Chapter 10 Access to childhood language memory: Implications for cognitive development
Access to Language and Cognitive Development

Terry Kit-fong Au

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines how memories that are acquired by overhearing a second language during early childhood are tacitly retrieved in adult age and influence cognitive development. It describes a study of adult learners of Spanish/Korean who had spoken Spanish/Korean as their native language before age six and only minimally, if at all, thereafter until they began to re-learn the language after age thirteen years. They were compared with native speakers, childhood (over)hearers, and typical late-second-language (L2)-learners of Spanish/Korean. Although far from native-like, childhood speakers of Spanish reliably outperformed childhood overhearers and typical late-L2-learners on measures of grammar. Both childhood speakers and overhearers spoke Spanish with a more native-like accent than typical late-L2-learners. The chapter also explores access to very early linguistic experience by focusing on adults adopted under age twelve months from Korea by families in the United States. The findings suggest early learning about ambient language can be accessed in adulthood upon re-learning. Thus, research into the re-learning of long-disused childhood languages turns out to have much to offer.

Keywords:   second language, overhearing, early childhood, Spanish language, Korean language, language re-learning

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