Invited Speakers

Beatty Memorial Lecture open to the general public:

Dr. Manuel Carreiras

(Basque Center on Cognition, Brain and Language, San Sebastian, Spain)

"How to handle two languages in one brain: some mysteries about bilingualism"

Most people, including some scientists, believe that our human brains developed to acquire and use one language. However, more than half of the human population nowadays either learn more than one language from birth or invest quite a lot of time and effort learning a second language. Bilingualism is a growing phenomenon in the world as well as an interesting case for investigating cognitive and brain plasticity. How do babies born in multilingual environments manage to acquire more than one language? What are the cognitive and neuronal implications of learning more than one language? How does the brain negotiate between two languages? In this talk I will discuss the consequences of early bilingualism and second language learning on linguistic and non-linguistic cognitive processes, on brain activation, and on brain connectivity from birth to adulthood.

Biography/Research: Manuel Carreiras is the scientific director of the Basque Center on Cognition, Brain and Language and IKERBASQUE research professor. He is the editor in chief of Frontiers in Language Sciences, and associated editor of Language and Cognitive Processes. He has published more than 100 papers in high impact journals in the field. His research has been funded by different research agencies. He is the coordinator of the consolider-ingenio2010 grant entitled COEDUCA and recipient of the ERC advanced grant Bi-Literacy among others.

Dr. Harald Clahsen

(Potsdam Centre for Multilingualism, Germany)

"Morphological processing in late bilinguals"

Much experimental research indicates that the morphological structure of an inflected word or derived word affects native language (L1) processing. In this talk, I present results on how non-native (L2) speakers represent and process morphologically complex words. We used different kinds of experimental tasks (e.g. priming experiments, eye-movement monitoring, event-related brain potentials) to examine the processing of inflectional and derivational phenomena in L2 learners of English and German from typologically different L1 backgrounds. I argue that the results from these experiments can only partially be accounted for in terms of factors such as cognitive resource limitations and L1 transfer, but that L1 and L2 morphological processing differ in more fundamental ways, in that the L2 processing system is less sensitive to morphological structure than the L1 processor.

Biography/Research: Harald Clahsen is Alexander-von-Humboldt Professor for Psycholinguistics at the University of Potsdam (Germany) and director of the new Potsdam Research Institute for Multilingualism. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and of the Academia Europeae. He has published 9 books and more than 120 research articles on first and second language acquisition, developmental and acquired language disorders, and on language processing. He has been the coordinator of several large research projects, and from 2014 on he will be the co-editor of the international journal 'Bilingualism: Language and Cognition' (Cambridge University Press). He received the Gerhard-Hess Award from the German Research Council for his work on language acquisition, an award from the University of Düsseldorf for his book on child language disorders, and most recently an Alexander-von-Humboldt Professorship.

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Dr. Holger Hopp

(Linguistics, University of Mannheim, Germany)

"Lexical bottlenecks in L2 grammatical processing"

In this talk, I explore the extent to which aspects of lexical representations and processing affect grammatical processing in late L2 learners. I will present data from a series of eye tracking experiments in the visual-world paradigm on grammatical gender agreement and in the reading paradigm on syntactic ambiguity resolution.

Experiment 1 shows how the nature of lexical (gender) representations affects the on-line predictive processing of grammatical gender agreement in English-German learners. In the second experiment, I demonstrate how non-native German readers of English with lower degrees of lexical automaticity fail to compute syntactic structure in L2 reading; yet, once speed of lexical access is controlled for, robust and native-like structure-driven parsing preferences surface in adult L2ers, too.

I will highlight the role of lexical aspects on L2 grammatical performance and discuss the implications of these findings for L2 acquisition and L2 processing research.

Biography/Research: Holger Hopp obtained his PhD from the University of Groningen (The Netherlands) in 2007. Since then he has been Assistant Professor of English Linguistics at the University of Mannheim (Germany). His research interests include generative L2 acquisition, L2 processing and the relations between grammatical and cognitive factors in language processing, and he has published articles on child and adult L2 acquisition as well as L2 processing. He is an Associate Editor of the journal "Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism" (LAB). In addition, he co-founded and co-directs the 'Mannheim Centre of Empirical Research on Multilingualism' (MAZEM gGmbH) which aims to translate linguistic knowledge and research to pedagogical practice in kindergardens and schools.

Dr. Sonja A. Kotz

(University of Manchester, UK + Max Planck Institute, Leipzig, Germany)

"Neural and temporal correlates of L2 speech and language processing: beyond the expected"

Current work on L2 language perception and production often implies similar neural substrates for most language functions in L1 and L2, even though they may vary as a function of age of acquisition, proficiency, and language dominance. However, the neural network(s) and temporal dynamics supporting L2 language functions are still under some debate. In my talk I will first reflect on parameters that are (1) considered to be language-specific, and (2) to affect L2 acquisition. I will then contrast these parameters with non-language specific parameters such as temporal coherence in a given language (i.e., the alternation of strong and weak syllables, Cutler, 1994). For example, in monolingual speakers we have shown that regular alternation of stressed and unstressed syllables in sentence processing activates a brain network (pre SMA, lateral PMC, basal ganglia, cerebellum) that has been previously reported to be engaged in non-linguistic sequencing (i.e. interval duration). These results suggest that non-linguistic sequencing properties may influence language perception and production. This evidence should serve as a starting point to reflect on their role in L2 language perception and production.

Biography/Research: Sonja A. Kotz is a cognitive and affective neuroscientist, who investigates social communication. More specifically, the research centres on predictive coding and cognitive/affective control with respect to verbal and non-verbal components of communication as well as their integration in communication in healthy mono- and bilingual as well as clinical (aphasic, neurodegenerative) populations using behavioural and neuroimaging methods ( event-related brain potentials (ERPs), EEG-oscillations, magnetoencephalography ( MEG), and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)). She holds a research group leadership at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, an Honorary Professorship in Psychology at the University of Leipzig, Germany and is an appointed Chair in Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience at the School of Psychological Sciences at the University of Manchester, UK.

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Dr. Rachel I Mayberry

(Linguistics, University of California San Diego, USA)

"When age of language acquisition matters: Brain language processing effects of learning a first language in adolescence"

Sign languages have linguistic architectures similar to that of spoken languages and are comprehended and produced similarly as well. However, unlike hearing language learners, deaf individuals often acquire sign language as a first language at ages ranging from infancy to adulthood, thus illuminating the nature of the critical period for language. How do individuals who were bereft of language throughout childhood develop it for first time in adolescence? In this talk I describe adolescent L1 acquisition in relation to infant and L2 acquisition of sign language from complementary perspectives: the content and trajectory of language development, and the neural processing of late L1 language investigated with aMEG.

Biography/Research: Rachel Mayberry is Professor of Linguistics at the University of California, San Diego, where she is also affiliated with the Cognitive Science Program, the Center for Research on Language, the Anthopogeny Program, and the Joint Doctoral Program in Language & Communicative Disorders. She received the M.S. degree from Washington University, the Ph.D. from McGill University, and has held academic positions at Northwestern University, The University of Chicago, and McGill University where she also served as Director of the School of Communication Sciences & Disorders. She investigates critical period effects on language and neural development using sign language as the test case. In related work she investigates the psycholinguistic processes underlying word recognition in readers who are deaf, and the co-variation of gesture with spoken language development. She currently serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Child Language, and directs the Laboratory for Multimodal Language Development funded by the Kavli Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Silvina Montrul

(University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA)

"Dominance and attrition: Multilingualism and the science of learning and forgetting"

Several decades of research have shown that the notion of two or more monolinguals in one person (Grosjean, 2008) is a myth, and even though there might be a few individuals who might be considered fully competent in two or more languages in one or more dimensions, actual multilingual balance does not exist. For most multilinguals one of the languages is more dominant, i.e. structurally and psycholinguaistically stronger than the other due to frequency of language use. In fact, it is common for many speakers to progressively lose ability in their native language (attrition) when the second language becomes dominant, as in the case of minority language speakers in North America and many parts of the world. Age of acquisition is a significant factor for optimal first language acquisition and for second language acquisition in an immigrant context. What my research has shown, and what my talk is about, is that age of onset of bilingualism in an immigrant context is a key factor in language forgetting as well: pre-puberty children are excellent second language learners, but they are also fast forgetters of their first language; adults may be poor second language learners but do not lose their first language as easily and dramatically as children. In this talk, I present representative results from my recent studies investigating the linguistic abilities of first and second generation immigrants in the United States, which illustrate how language dominance and L1 attrition are related in these populations depending on age of onset of bilingualism.

Biography/Research: Silvina Montrul graduated with a PhD in Linguistics from McGill University in 1998. She is currently Professor and Head of the Department of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese and Professor of Linguistics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she is also Director of the University Language Academy for Children and Director of the Second Language Acquisition and Bilingualism Lab. She is author of The Acquisition of Spanish (Benjamins, 2004) and Incomplete Acquisition in Bilingualism. Re-examining the Age Factor (Benjamins, 2008), as well as numerous articles in journals such as Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, The International Journal of Bilingualism, Language Learning, The Heritage Language Journal, Studies in Second Language Acquisition, Language Acquisition, Second Language Research. She is co-editor of the journal Second Language Research. Her research focuses on linguistic and psycholinguistic approaches to adult second language acquisition and bilingualism, in particular syntax, semantics and morphology. She also has expertise in language loss and retention in minority language-speaking bilinguals, or heritage speakers.

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Dr. Eric Pakulak

(Psychology, University of Oregon, USA)

"Effects of language proficiency and socioeconomic status on the development of neural mechanisms supporting syntactic processing"

Ongoing research in our laboratory examines the relative effects of langauge proficiency, socioeconomic status (SES) background, and age of acquisition (AOA) on neural organization for syntactic processing in both adults and children using event-related potentials (ERPs) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Using ERPs, we have previously shown that the neural response elicited by syntactic violations varies as a function of language proficiency and SES (Pakulak & Neville, 2010) and is sensitive to delays in language acquisition independently of proficiency level (Pakulak & Neville, 2011). Using fMRI, we also found converging evidence from complimentary methodologies that late bilinguals rely on different neural regions to achieve a level of proficiency comparable to some native speakers. To study children, we developed a novel, ecologically valid ERP paradigm containing naturally spoken sentences in a coherent narrative accompanying an animated video. In preschool children, we found SES-related differences in the neural response to syntactic violations consistent with results from our studies of adults. Future work using this paradigm will examine the development of neural organization for syntactic processing in bilingual children.

Biography/Research: Eric Pakulak is a Research Associate in the Brain Development Laboratory at the University of Oregon. His PhD is in Psychology with an emphasis on cognitive neuroscience, and he also holds Master's degrees in Linguistics and Russian. His primary research interests are the neuroplasticity of brain systems important for language and attention, and the effects of environmental factors related to socioeconomic status on these systems. Within language, his primary research interests concern the neural systems important for syntactic processing, and how these systems, and the development of these systems, are affected by differences in language experience and proficiency. He uses the complementary techniques of event-related potentials (ERPs) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to explore these questions in both monolingual and bilingual adults. He is also closely involved in an ongoing project employing basic research on neuroplasticity to inform the development, implementation, and assessment of evidence-based training programs for at-risk preschool children and their parents.

Dr. Elin Thordardottir

(Communication Sciences and Disorders, McGill University, Canada)

"The effect of amount of input on simultaneous and sequential bilingual language acquisition"

This talk will report on a series of studies that aimed to quantify the effect of input on language acquisition by examining the French and English performance of monolingual and bilingual children who varied in how much they had been exposed to each language but who were matched on age (two groups, 3 years and 5 years, n=140), nonverbal cognitive level and SES. Exposure, assessed by detailed parent report, reflected the time spent in each language environment since birth. Language performance (vocabulary, grammar, code mixing) was strongly associated with previous exposure. However, bilingual children needed to spend only half their time in a language to score comparably to monolinguals in that language. Unequal exposure patterns were mirrored by unequal performance across languages. Grammatical development followed a remarkably language specific schedule similar to that of monolingual development in each language. In contrast to accumulated language knowledge (vocabulary, morphosyntax), nonword repetition was essentially unaffected by input. Further studies will be discussed that applied these normative data to the identification of primary language impairment (PLI) in bilingual children. Comparison of monolingual and bilingual children with and without PLI (n=56) revealed that nonword repetition separated children with and without impairment regardless of bilingualism.

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