Spotting cross-linguistic similarities: Stimulus- and participant-related factors in cognate recognition

Raphael Berthele and Jan Vanhove - Institute of Multilingualism at the University of Fribourg

Spotting cross-linguistic similarities: Stimulus- and participant-related factors in cognate recognition

Raphael Berthele and Jan Vanhove
Institute of Multilingualism at the University of Fribourg

Closely related languages display a great number of cross-linguistic similarities that language learners can use to their advantage. These similarities are sometimes observed to speed up the acquisition of foreign language production, e.g. in the domains of grammar and pronunciation, but they are particularly relevant in comprehension, most obviously so in the case of cognate words in genealogically related target languages (e.g. English apple, Dutch appel, German Apfel). In this talk, we first discuss the role of cross-linguistic similarities in language learning, with a particular focus on receptive skills. Then, we present in considerable detail a lifespan study that sought to find out how the ability to recognise cognate relationshipos develops between ages 10 and 86. We highlight the role of participant-related predictors such as age, intelligence and linguistic background and of stimulus-related predictors (formal characteristics, frequency) as well as their interaction.

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