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Televised Whorf: cognitive restructuring in advanced foreign language learners as a function of audio-visual media exposure

Bylund, E. and Athanasopoulos, P. (2015) Televised Whorf: cognitive restructuring in advanced foreign language learners as a function of audio-visual media exposure. Modern Language Journal, 99 (S1). pp. 123-137. ISSN 1540-4781

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-4781.2015.12182.x

Abstract/Summary

The encoding of goal-oriented motion events varies across different languages. Speakers of languages without grammatical aspect (e.g., Swedish) tend to mention motion endpoints when describing events, e.g., “two nuns walk to a house,”, and attach importance to event endpoints when matching scenes from memory. Speakers of aspect languages (e.g., English), on the other hand, are more prone to direct attention to the ongoingness of motion events, which is reflected both in their event descriptions, e.g., “two nuns are walking.”, and in their non-verbal similarity judgements. This study examines to what extent native speakers of Swedish (n = 82) with English as a foreign language (FL) restructure their categorisation of goal-oriented motion as a function of their English proficiency and experience with the English language (e.g., exposure, learning). Seventeen monolingual native English speakers from the United Kingdom (UK) were engaged for comparison purposes. Data on motion event cognition were collected through a memory-based triads matching task, in which a target scene with an intermediate degree of endpoint orientation was matched with two alternative scenes with low and high degrees of endpoint orientation, respectively. Results showed that the preference among the Swedish speakers of L2 English to base their similarity judgements on ongoingness rather than event endpoints was correlated with their use of English in their everyday lives, such that those who often watched television in English approximated the ongoingness preference of the English native speakers. These findings suggest that event cognition patterns may be restructured through the exposure to FL audio-visual media. The results thus add to the emerging picture that learning a new language entails learning new ways of observing and reasoning about reality.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Psychology
Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Clinical Language Sciences
Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Language and Cognition
ID Code:36668
Publisher:Wiley

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