The present study examined visual word recognition processes in Hebrew (a Semitic language) among beginning learners whose first language (L1) was either Semitic (Arabic) or Indo-European (e.g. English). To examine if learners, like native Hebrew speakers, exhibit morphological sensitivity to root and word-pattern morphemes, learners made an off-line graded lexical decision task on unfamiliar letter strings. Critically, these letter strings were manipulated to include or exclude familiar Hebrew morphemes. The results demonstrate differential morphological sensitivity as a function of participants’ language background. In particular, Indo-European-L1 learners exhibited increased sensitivity to word-pattern familiarity, with little effect of root familiarity. In contrast, Semitic-L1 learners exhibited non-additive sensitivity to both morphemes. Specifically, letter strings with a familiar root and a familiar word-pattern were the most likely to be judged as real words by this L1-Semitic group, whereas strings with a familiar root in the absence of a familiar word-pattern were the most likely to lead to a non-word decision. These findings show that both groups of learners activate their morphological knowledge in Hebrew in order to process unfamiliar Hebrew words. Critically, the findings further demonstrate transfer of L1 word recognition processes during the initial stages of second language (L2) learning.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
During the writing of this manuscript, TD was supported by EU-FP7 grant CIG-322016.
© 2015, © The Author(s) 2015.
- L1 transfer
- L2 learning
- visual word recognition
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Linguistics and Language