[Toegepaste Taalwetenschap in Artikelen 55] 1996
► pp. 47–62
The present study of individual language attrition (LA) attempts to combine social an psychological aspects in an examination of lexical processing. The data are based on loss of language skills by Russian speaking immigrants who had been in Israel from 5 to 20 years. All had acquired Russian as their native language and were literate in Russian upon arrival. Three data collection sessions were conducted in the participants' homes. Session 1 (spontaneous conversation) investigated each of four sociological domains: home, work/school, religion and immigration experience. Spontaneous conversation served as a source of information about the subjects as well as indication of their LA. Markers of attrition (pauses, code-switching, hesitations, circumlocutions) served as a basis for developing the tasks in two additional sessions (i.e. semantic opposites, hyponyms, picture naming, Tip-of-the-Tongue (TOT) phenomenon, etc.). The paper reports on data from several tasks, with a particular focus on: semantic opposites and Tip-of-the-Tongue (TOT) phenomena. For TOT, the speaker does not recall the target item, but does recall words of similar form and/or meaning. TOT was notes for low and middle frequency lexical items, with individual differences found between: 1. substitution of a different word for the intended word, usually accompanied by immediate apprehension of the error by the speaker; 2. circumlocution, i.e. when the inaccessible item is replaced by a definition and/or metalinguistic comments regarding its use. (For example, instead of the Russian equivalent of 'peacock' the following utterance: 'Well, a colourful bird, I forgot...'); 3. neologisms based on morphology. Findings are discussed in terms of an emerging processing model of LA based on Levelt's production model. The accessing process is parcelled into several sub-processes: full comprehension, successful seleaion of an appropriate lexical item from the mental lexion, after which there is a failure to access phonological encoding of that item in the appropriate language.