Relearning heritage language phonology
Macer, Courtney Ann
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Theories of language acquisition support the idea that experience in a language during early childhood is crucial to developing native-like phonology in that language. However, less support exists for the idea that these benefits persist into adulthood if speaking is nearly or totally discontinued after childhood. The present study aims to evaluate the accessibility and potential for re-learning native-like phonology during adulthood after a long period without spoken experience in the target language. Using a methodology loosely adapted from Oh et al.’s (2003) study, perception and production of Korean sounds by native speakers of Korean were compared to those of adult heritage speakers, childhood heritage speakers, and second language speakers. Each non-native group of participants was enrolled in college Korean language classes, subdivided into “novice” and “experienced” instructional levels. The results indicate that heritage speakers became native-like in their perception and production of Korean tense and lax stops more quickly than non-heritage speakers.