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Title: A study of the effects of English learning on cognition in Japanese learners on English from a multi-competence perspective
Authors: Murahata, Yoshiko
Issue Date: 2012
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: This study investigated whether there were any effects of English learning on cognition in Japanese learners of English (JLEs), based on the concept of multi-competence. The study first verified that there were language effects on cognition in JLEs through an experiment using the taxonomic-thematic triads (i.e., monkey-panda-banana) conducted with 84 Japanese native speakers (JNSs) (mean age 33, age range 18-57; male 31, female 53) and 21 English native speakers (ENSs) (mean age 27, age range 22-38; male 10, female 11). The study was based on the so-called West-East Paradigm originally found in social psychology, which claims that Westerners tend to pay more attention to salient objects and their properties independently from the context, and that East Asians tend to pay more attention to relationships among objects by taking the context into consideration. The results showed that ENSs tend to relate categorically-related objects (i.e., monkey-panda) more strongly than JNSs and that JLEs came to relate them more strongly as they acquired higher proficiency in English. The cognitive shift found among JLEs was considered to be the effects of language because they were learning English almost solely at school in Japan, where English is not used for daily communication. The next experiment examined which part of grammatical features of the languages were relevant to the different cognitive behaviours found in taxonomic categorisation using 66 JNSs (mean age 20.5, age range 18-38; male 26, female 40) and 26 ENSs (mean age 21.1, age range 18-30; male 12, female 14). It showed that JNSs and ENSs interpreted generic nouns differently because of the different noun forms between English and Japanese. Furthermore JLEs with higher proficiency in English behaved in-between the two groups. The third experiment was originally designed and conducted on 84 JNSs (mean age 22.7, age range 19-38; male 15, female 33) and 26 ENSs (mean age 21.0, age range 19-24; male 12, female 14) to explore whether they would behave differently in the task of categorisation of objects as a consequence of acquiring different number marking patterns in their languages. Again parallel results were found between the noun forms and object categorisation behaviours. Thus the three experiments brought forward evidence to show that JLEs shift part of their cognition as a consequence of learning English as an L2. The study contributes to multi-competence research, verifying the multi-competent mind of JLEs, which is different from that of monolingual speakers of Japanese and English. The findings suggest a new perspective from which the field of English education in Japan can view JLEs as unique individuals with more than one language in their minds.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences

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