PSY 369: Psycholinguistics
Language Acquisition:
Bilinugalism
Contexts
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Contexts of childhood bilingualism
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Distinction is a little arbitrary, no hard and
fast rules
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Simultaneous bilingualism - when learn both
languages at same time (although there is variability
in definitions here)
 Typically when children are in a community
(including a home) that is bilingual
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Sequential bilingualism - when learn second
language after acquiring the native language
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Commonly called second-language acquisition.
Occurs in a variety of different circumstances
Sequential bilingualism
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Video Questions:
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Does acquisition/learning proceed in the same way
the second time through?
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Many different opinions:
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May depend on the age of the learner
May depend on the threshold of what you count as
similar vs. different
What’s the best method for learning/teaching a
second language
Activity
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Determine who or what is the one performing the action.
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The waitress pushes the cowboys.
The telephones pushes the cowboys.
Kisses the table the apple.
The baskets the teacher kicks.
As a native speaker of English we can use many
cues:
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Word order
Animacy
Verb agreement
Not all languages use the same cues to the same
extent
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e.g., German doesn’t rely as much on word order, but
relies more on agreement processes
Activity
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Determine who or what is the one performing the action.
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The waitress pushes the cowboys.
The telephones pushes the cowboys.
Kisses the table the apple.
The baskets the teacher kicks.
Kilborn (1989, 1994)
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Found that bilinguals (English as second language)
typically carry over the dominant processing strategies
from their native languages.
This interacts with their level of fluency in the second
language
Some questions
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Notation:
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L1 = native language
L2 = second language
Interesting research questions
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Can one language ever be fully turned off?
Is L1 grammar always active?
Can L2 become the more dominant language?
What factors influence the relative activation of the two
languages (individual and contextual)?
Are concepts shared by the bilingual’s two languages?
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Is there an easy answer?
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Fully versus partially shared semantics
Simultaneous bilingualism
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Rate of development
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Whether languages are related or not doesn’t seem
to matter
Vocabulary growth of bilinguals is similar to that of
monolinguals
Some studies suggest that there is some delay in
syntactic development
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Gathercole (2002)
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Lag acquiring count/mass N distinction (rice/pea)
Lag acquiring grammatical gender
Interesting effects in bilinguals
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Interference
Code switching
Interesting effects in bilinguals
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Interference
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Does knowing two languages lead to interference?
When found, interference is at multiple levels
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Phonological - least amount of interference
Lexical - mixing words from different languages
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Initially, appear to use a one word per thing strategy
But as they realize there that they’re speaking two language,
then they’ll use words from both languages simultaneously
Syntactic
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Until year two, may use only one syntactic system which is
common to both languages
Then a brief period with two sets of lexical items, but still a
common syntax
Finally, two lexicons and two sets of syntax
Code switching
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When bilinguals substitute a word or phrase from one
language with a phrase or word from another language
“I want a motorcycle VERDE”
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Switching is systematic
Code switching
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When bilinguals substitute a word or phrase from one
language with a phrase or word from another language
“I want a motorcycle VERDE”
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The Spanish adjective “verde” follows a grammatical rule that is
observed by most bilingual speakers that code-switch
“I want a VERDE motorcycle”
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Would be incorrect
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because language switching can occur only if the adjective is placed
according to the rules of the language of the adjective
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In this case, the adjective is in Spanish; therefore, the adjective must
follow the Spanish grammatical rule that states that the noun must
precede the adjective
Code switching
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Traditionally viewed (semi-lingualism) as a strategy to
compensate for diminished language proficiency.
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Bilinguals code-switch because they do not know either language
completely
Problem:
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Focus typically on written/reading rather than spoken performance
Early researchers viewed code-switching as evidence that the
bilinguals’ two languages were organized in separate and
distinct mental dictionaries.
Code switching
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Generally, bilinguals take longer to read and
comprehend sentences containing code-switched
words
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This is due to a “mental switch mechanism” that
determines which of the bilingual’s two mental dictionaries
are “on” or “off” during language comprehension.
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This mental switch is responsible for selecting the appropriate
mental dictionary to be employed during the comprehension of a
sentence.
 E.g., if reading an English, a Spanish code-switched word is
encountered, the mental switch must disable the English
linguistic system, and enable the Spanish linguistic system.
Code switching
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This time difference depends on similarity of the languages
Chinese-English bilinguals take longer to recognize English codeswitched words in Chinese sentences only if the English words
contain initial consonant-consonant (e.g., flight) clusters, simply
because the Chinese language lacks this phonotactic structure.
Another current view suggests that language dominance (i.e., which
language is used more frequently) plays an important role in codeswitching
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Bilingual Representations
Caramazza and Brones (1980)
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Task: Spanish-English bilinguals decide whether a presented
word (e.g., gun) was a member of a more general category (e.g.,
weapon)
Restults: it turned out not to matter whether language of the
presented word matched or mismatched the language of the
presented category name
This suggests a general representation of the concept is being
activated;
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such activation facilitates the form of the concept in either language
Bilingual Representations
Kirsner and colleagues
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Priming in lexical decision was not as strong when cross-language
equivalents were used as primes, relative to when a word was
repeated in the same language
There should be no difference if both words lead to the activation
of one general (language non-specific) representation
Models of the bilingual lexicons
Potter et al (1984)
Word Association Model
Concept Mediation Model
L1=First Language
L2=Second Language
CONCEPTS
L1
CONCEPTS
L2
IMAGES
L1
L2
IMAGES
Bilingual Representations
A hybrid view
 if words are concrete, high in frequency, or are cross-linguistic
cognates of one another, they tend to be accessed via a common
representation
 if words are abstract, low in frequency, or non-cognates, they
tend to be accessed via separate representations for each
language
Revised Hierarchical Model
Kroll & Stewart (1994)
concepts
conceptual
links
conceptual
links
lexical
links
L1
L2
Distributed Feature Model
DeGroot (1992)
L1 = First Language
L2 = Second Language
L1
Concrete Words
L2
lexical
level
conceptual
level
L1
Abstract Words
L2
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PSY 369: Psycholinguistics