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English and Japanese word associations and syntagmatic-paradigmatic shift of Japanese children learning English as a second language Yasutake, Yuko


Research in word association studies found that children give predominantly syntagmatic responses (responses from different form classes from stimuli). English children were found to undergo a shift to paradigmatic (responses from the same form classes as stimuli) before age ten (referred to as S-P shift) which is the adult norm. On the other hand, Japanese children do not have S-P shift, and Japanese adults' responses are dominantly syntagmatic (Moran 1968). Leicester (1981) collected English word association responses from Japanese beginner and advanced learners of English as a second language and found S-P shift like increase of paradigmatic responses as English ability improves. This study purports to replicate Leicester's study among children. It is because the existence of the S-P shift in English of second-language learners whose first language does not have the shift would mean that second language learning parallels first language acquisition. Two main hypothesis were tested: 1. That Japanese children learning English as a second language will give dominantly syntagmatic responses in Japanese regardless of their grade level. 2. That Japanese children learning English as a second language of higher grade level will give more paradigmatic responses than those of lower grade level. Three subsidiary hypotheses were tested: 3. That Japanese children learning English as a second language will give different proportion of paradigmatic responses in Japanese and English. 4. That Japanese children learning English as a second language will give different pattern of responses in each language. 5. That Japanese children learning English as a second language will give fewer paradigmatic responses in English than monolingual English children of the same grade. Thirty students each of grades one, three, and five from two Japanese supplementary schools in Vancouver and Seattle were used as subjects. The subjects attend regular English classes at public schools, and therefore, their English ability was assumed to parallel their grade level. 27-item word association test was administered in English and Japanese. The ratio of paradigmatic responses was analyzed according to grade level. In agreement with literature, no grade difference was found among Japanese paradigmatic responses. In English, however, grade one subjects performed most paradigmatically, and thereby, no linear correspondence between English ability and English paradigmatic responses was found. Although English responses were close to the English norm, and Japanese responses to the Japanese norm, a significant number of Japanese responses were given in English association by grade five students. Significant difference in paradigmaticity was also found when two schools were compared as well as between two languages. Grade one students outperformed equivalent English monolingual children in English. It was speculated that young children develop L2 vocabulary systems independently and directly from the start resulting in higher rate of paradigmatic responses, whereas older children initially construct a one to one association between LI and L2, resulting in translation responses and low paradigmaticity in the case of English. School difference suggests that there are some other variables affecting word association.

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