Age effects in first language attrition: Speech perception by Korean-English bilinguals
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Description: This study investigated how bilinguals’ perception of their first language (L1) differs according to age of reduced contact with L1 (ARC) after immersion in a second language (L2). Twenty-one L1 Korean-L2 English bilinguals in the US ranging in ARC from 3 to 15, as well as 17 native Korean controls in Korea, were tested on perception of three L1 sound contrasts differing in similarity to L2 contrasts. Results showed that, in comparison to controls, bilinguals were less accurate on L1-specific contrasts; their accuracy, moreover, was significantly correlated with ARC, an effect most pronounced for the contrast most dissimilar from L2. These findings suggest that the earlier bilinguals are extensively exposed to L2, the less likely they are to perceive L1 sounds accurately; however, this relationship is modulated by cross-linguistic similarity. Additionally, a turning point in both L2 acquisition and L1 attrition of phonology appears to occur at around age 12.