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date: 27 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Thirty years of research in second language (L2) lexical attrition has focused on the question of whether L2 vocabulary attrites in a variety of situations. This research has necessarily been exploratory and descriptive, but has essentially treated the lexicon as a collection of separate words. This chapter outlines a proposal for future study of the L2 lexicon as an integrated network by introducing Meara’s constant decay hypothesis. Since lexical loss is so strongly linked with memory, classic and more recent findings on how lexical memory degrades when the words are not integrated into a cohesive lexical system is reviewed and provides a floor against which to measure attrition of integrated systems. A review of significant research results in L2 lexical attrition focuses on how attrition is affected by the factors of age of learning, length of incubation, types of words, and target language.

Keywords: lexical attrition, vocabulary learning, L2 attrition, connectionist modelling, constant decay hypothesis, memory loss, age effects, incubation period, differential language effects

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