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Kira Gor

Professor, School of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures
Professor and Program Head, Second Language Acquisition

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Research Expertise

Nonnative Mental Lexicon
Second Language Processing

Curriculum Vitae

Kira Gor (Ph.D. in Linguistics and Experimental Phonetics, St. Petersburg State University, Russia, and Ph.D. in Russian and Second Language Acquisition, Bryn Mawr College) is Professor of Second Language Acquisition and Russian at the School of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at the University of Maryland, where she teaches courses in the Graduate Program in Second Language Acquisition. Her research focuses on nonnative lexical access, the structure of the nonnative mental lexicon, cross-linguistic phonetic perception, the phonology-orthography interface, and phonological and morphological processing in heritage and late learners of Russian. Her articles appeared in Applied Psycholinguistics, Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, Frontiers in Psychology, Journal of Memory and Language, Journal of Slavic Linguistics, Language and Cognitive Processes, Language Learning, Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism, Second Language Research, Slavic and East European Journal, Studies in Second Language Acquisition, and The Mental Lexicon. Her publications include Interlanguage Phonology and Second Language Orthography: Vowel Reduction in the Interlanguage of American Learners of Russian (St. Petersburg University Press, 1998). She has co-authored two editions of a four-volume multimedia Russian language course, Russian Stage One: Live from Moscow! (1996), and Russian Stage One: Live from Russia! (2008). She is currently working on the project Linguistic Correlates of Proficiency at the Intermediate and Advanced Levels: Russian funded by the Department of Education through the Center for Slavic, Eurasian, and East European Studies (CSEEES) at Duke University.

EDUCATION 

Ph.D. - Linguistics and Experimental Phonetics, Saint Petersburg State University
Ph.D. - Russian and Second Language Acquisition, Bryn Mawr College

TEACHING & RESEARCH INTERESTS

Second language acquisition and processing of phonology and morphology

Second language lexical access

The nonnative mental lexicon

Processing of inflectional morphology by native and non-native speakers

Linguistic correlates of second language proficiency

The heritage speaker
 

COURSES TAUGHT IN THE LAST FIVE YEARS

SLAA 611 Fundamentals of foreign language acquisition and instruction
SLAA 741 Cognitive processes in second language learning
SLAA 749F Second language acquisition and processing of phonology
SLAA 749L Phonology and morphology in L2 lexical access
SLAA 749V The L2 mental lexicon and issues in vocabulary learning
SLAA 772 Bilingualism and multilingualism
SLAA 773 The heritage speaker

Publications

Ontogenesis Model of the L2 Lexical Representation

Together with my colleagues from the University of Leipzig, Germany led by Denisa Bordag we have developed Ontogenesis Model of the L2 Lexical Representation.

School of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures

Lead: Kira Gor
Non-ARHU Contributor(s): Denisa Bordag, Andreas Opitz
Dates:
Together with my colleagues from the University of Leipzig, Germany led by Denisa Bordag we have developed Ontogenesis Model of the L2 Lexical Representation. We introduce the blueprint of the Ontogenesis Model of the L2 Lexical Representation (OM) that focuses on the development of lexical representations. The OM has three dimensions: linguistic domains (phonological, orthographic, and semantic), mappings between domains, and networks of lexical representations. The model assumes that fuzziness is a pervasive property of the L2 lexicon: most L2 lexical representations are low resolution and the ontogenetic curve of their development does not reach the optimum (i.e., the ultimate stage of their attainment with optimal encoding) in one or more dimensions. We review the findings on lexical processing and vocabulary training to show that the OM has a potential to provide an interpretation for the results that have been treated separately and to move us forward in building a comprehensive model of L2 lexical acquisition and processing.

Nonnative facilitation in phonological priming

High reliance on sublexical rather than lexical processing may be a general property of nonnative word recognition in case when the words are less familiar and have a low level of entrenchment.

School of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures

Lead: Kira Gor
Dates:
A phonological priming experiment reports inhibition for Russian prime-target pairs with onset overlap in native speakers. When preceded by the phonological prime /kabɨla/, the target /kabak/ (кобыла – КАБАК, mare – PUB) takes longer to respond than the same target preceded by a phonologically unrelated word. English-speaking late learners of Russian also show inhibition, but only for high-frequency prime-target pairs. Conversely, they show facilitation for low-frequency pairs. In semantic priming (e.g. carnation – DAISY), facilitation is observed for the same two lexical frequency ranges both in native speakers and learners of Russian, suggesting that the primes and targets in the low-frequency range are familiar to the nonnative participants. We interpret nonnative phonological facilitation for low-frequency words as evidence for sublexical processing of less familiar words that is accompanied by reduced lexical competition in nonnative lexical access. We posit that low lexical competition is due to unfaithful, or fuzzy phonolexical representations: nonnative speakers are unsure about the exact phonological form of low-frequency words. Such unfaithful representations are not strongly engaged in lexical competition and selection. High reliance on sublexical rather than lexical processing may be a general property of nonnative word recognition in case when the words are less familiar and have a low level of entrenchment.

The mental lexicon of L2 learners of Russian: Phonology and morphology in lexical storage and access

This review discusses a number of recent studies focusing on the role of phonological and morphological structure in lexical access of Russian words by non-native speakers.

School of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures

Lead: Kira Gor
Dates:

This review discusses a number of recent studies focusing on the role of phonological and morphological structure in lexical access of Russian words by non-native speakers. This research suggests that late second language (L2) learners differ from native speakers of Russian in several ways: Lower-proficiency L2 learners rely on unfaithful, or fuzzy, phonological representations of words, which are caused either by problems with encoding difficult phonological contrasts, such as hard and soft consonants, or by uncertainty about the phonological form and form-meaning mappings for low-frequency words. In processing morphologically complex inflected words, L2 learners rely on decomposition to access the lexical meaning through the stem and may ignore the information carried by the inflection. The reviewed findings have broader implications for the understanding of nonnative word recognition, and the role of L2 proficiency in lexical processing.

Processing inflectional morphology in a second language

Together with my colleagues, former PhD students, we have proposed a mechanism of morphological processing for second language speakers. They decompose inflected words into their constituents but do not process the information carried by the inflection.

School of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures

Lead: Kira Gor
Non-ARHU Contributor(s): Anna Chrabaszcz
Dates:
Two auditory lexical decision tasks explore the role of case form (citation or oblique) and the type of inflection (overt or zero). In native speakers, the study reports an additional processing cost for both overtly and zero-inflected oblique-case nouns compared to the same nouns in the citation form. It is interpreted as the cost of checking the recomposed word within the inflectional paradigm rather than the cost of affix stripping, because there is no affix to strip in zero-inflected words. Conversely, nonnative speakers of Russian in Experiment 1 do not show additional processing costs either for case form or inflection type, which suggests that they do not process the morphological information encoded in the inflection. In Experiment 2, we add a new manipulation to the nonword condition such that the nonwords illegally combine real stems and real inflections to emphasize the need for processing the inflection. This time, nonnative speakers show additional processing costs for oblique-case nouns, and their sensitivity to case increases with proficiency, with only high-proficiency nonnative speakers demonstrating native-like sensitivity. We show that citation forms are processed faster than oblique forms regardless of inflection, and that nonnative speakers’ engagement of morphological information is task and proficiency-dependent.