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The development of cognate awareness (Hipfner-Boucher et al., 2021)

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posted on 22.10.2021, 00:17 by Kathleen Hipfner-Boucher, Adrian Pasquarella, Sonal Prasad, Xi Chen
Purpose: Our 1-year longitudinal study tracked the development of cognate awareness among second (L2) and third language (L3) learners of French in French immersion in Grades 1 and 2 to explore the impact of orthographic overlap and cognate status (true vs. false) on children’s ability to recognize cognate relationships. We also assessed the impact of French L2/L3 status on performance.
Method: We compared performance on three conditions (true cognates with same and similar spellings, false cognates with same spellings) within and across grades. We used a direct measure of cognate awareness that required children (n = 81) to distinguish true from false cognates presented orally and in print.
Results: Overall, Grade 1 children failed to recognize cognate relationships between true cognates with similar spellings, but successfully recognized true cognates with same spellings. Performance on all conditions increased significantly between Grades 1 and 2. The greatest improvement was seen on true cognates with similar spellings. Performance on false cognates was inferior to performance on true cognates with same spellings in Grade 1, and inferior to performance on both same and similar spelled true cognates in Grade 2. No differences were found due to L2/L3 status.
Conclusions: Among sequential learners of L2/L3 French in the early stages of additional language learning, cognate awareness is impacted by the degree of orthographic overlap, as well as by cognate status. Children’s ability to recognize cross-language orthographic and semantic relationships improves substantially across the early elementary grades.

Supplemental Material S1. Cognate and false cognate items.

Hipfner-Boucher, K., Pasquarella, A., Prasad, S., & Chen, X. (2021). The development of cognate awareness in child second/third language learners of French in French immersion: The effects of orthographic overlap and cognate status. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1044/2021_JSLHR-20-00645


This research was funded by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada awarded to Xi Chen (Grant 494811).