A Psycholinguistic Tool for the Assessment of Language Loss: The HALA Project

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ISSN: 1934-5275

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O'Grady, William, Schafer, Amy J., Perla, Jawee, Lee, On-Soon, Wieting, Julia
language loss, attrition, psycholinguistic, assessment
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A major obstacle to the early diagnosis of language loss and to the assessment of language maintenance efforts is the absence of an easy-to-use psycholinguistic measure of language strength. In this paper, we describe and discuss a body-part naming task being developed as part of the Hawai‘i Assessment of Language Access (HALA) project. This task, like the others in the HALA inventory, exploits the fact that the speed with which bilingual speakers access lexical items and structure-building operations in their two languages offers a sensitive measure of relative language strength. In a pilot study conducted with Korean-English bilinguals, we were able to establish a strong correlation between language strength and naming times even in highly fluent bilingual speakers, in support of the central assumption underlying the HALA tests. We discuss the implications of this finding for the broader study of language strength as well as for the practical problems associated with work on language loss, maintenance, and revitalization.

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