The Cognate Boost: A Study of Picture Naming across Proficiency Levels with L2 Learners of Russian
The purpose of this study was to investigate the “cognate boost” in Russian. Based on the Revised Hierarchical Model of bilingual memory and the theory of nonselective language storage in bilinguals, it was assumed that cognates would facilitate the performance of L1 English learners of L2 Russian in a picture-naming task, though this effect would be modulated by proficiency level. Twenty-two college-level learners of Russian from two proficiency levels were asked to complete a picture-naming task in Russian. Half performed a task with cognates present and half without. An analysis of response time and accuracy showed that cognates facilitate the performance of lower proficiency speakers, while higher proficiency speakers are not affected. These results support the theories mentioned previously and show a cognate effect despite the differing orthographies of English and Russian. This paper presents the results of the quantitative and qualitative analyses and their implications for theories of language acquisition and storage.
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