On the weekend of March 10-12, six first-year MA students in the Department of Linguistics presented at the Georgetown University Round Table (GURT) on Languages and Linguistics. Torri Raines, Olga Sormaz, Talal Alharbi, Naomi Otsuji, Qiuqu Qin, and Cheyenne Sears traveled to Washington D.C. for the conference to present a research project they completed for their Second Language Acquisition (SLA) class with Dr. Scott Jarvis. The class took place during Fall semester 2016, and all of the work in the class lead up to writing the research paper and presenting it to their classmates and Dr. Jarvis. The class divided into two groups, with one group submitting their presentation to GURT and the other submitting to the Kentucky Foreign Language Conference (KFLC) held in Lexington, KY on April 20-22. Both proposals were accepted.
Over the course of Fall semester, students in the SLA class collected data for the research paper, which was a study on what makes a word in a foreign, unfamiliar language easy or hard to learn. The project was a continuation from the project done by the previous year’s SLA class. Several students from the course proctored data collection, which involved having undergraduate students from the intro-level linguistics courses complete a vocabulary-learning module created by the group on Qualtrics. The module included form-meaning pairs from Finnish as well as pseudo-words created for the study. The study explored whether structural familiarity, structural viability, semantic familiarity, and conceptual salience are conducive or detrimental to vocabulary learning in a language unrelated to the learner’s L1, and what combinations of those factors have the greatest effect. Raines, Sormaz, Alharbi, Otsuji, and Qin are part of the group that dealt with the pseudo-words part of the study. Sears is part of the other group, which will present the Finnish results at KFLC.
The GURT Conference began on the morning of Friday, March 10th, and ended in the afternoon on Sunday, March 12th. The theme of the conference this year was “Variable Properties: Their Nature and Acquisition.” Speakers at the conference included scholars from institutions such as Georgetown University, the University of Toronto, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Maryland, and many others. Friday and Saturday afternoon at the conference were filled with concurrent sessions on sociolinguistics, syntax, morphosyntax, phonology, L2 acquisition, and L1 acquisition, totaling over 60 talks given at the conference. Raines, Sormaz, and Alharbi gave a 20-minute presentation titled “Effects of Crosslinguistic Similarity of Form and Salience of Meaning on L2 Lexical Recall” on Saturday, March 11th, as part of the concurrent session dealing with L2 acquisition.