Karsten Steinhauer

McGill University

Real-time brain activation in bilingualism: Effects of age of acquisition, language proficiency, L1-L2 interactions, and L1 attrition after L2 immersion  

Event-related brain potentials (ERPs) provide an excellent tool to investigate the temporal dynamics of language processing, including the fascinating neural changes that take place when language learners become more proficient in their L2. In my talk, I will present data from a variety of large-scale ERP studies investigating second language acquisition in both artificial languages and natural languages, at different levels of L2 proficiency. I will argue that there is little evidence for a strict ‘critical period’ in the domain of late acquired L2 morpho-syntax and that L2 proficiency rather than age of language acquisition predicts the brain's activation patterns, including "native-like" activity at very high levels of proficiency. The general dynamics of these changes, however, is modulated by factors such as one's first language background (e.g., ‘transfer effects’) and the type of language exposure (e.g., immersion versus classroom instruction). If time allows, I will also present the first ERP data demonstrating how long-term immersion in L2 can affect the real-time processing of one‘s first language.


Raymond W. Gibbs, Jr.

University of California, Santa Cruz

Embodied Psycholinguistics

The field of psycholinguistics has historically been interested in describing the architecture of the human language processor. For the most part, this language processor was viewed as an independent system separate from the rest of human cognitive abilities. In fact, the aim of most psycholinguistic experiments was to explore how the language processor operated in real-time while minimizing any distracting influences of the body and bodily actions. However, the 1990s saw a revolution in cognitive science in which human embodiment was recognized as being fundamental to all aspects of human thought, language, and action. My talk describes the rise of research in “embodied psycholinguistics” and why this enterprise offers a radically new vision of linguistic structure and behavior. A key part of this emergence is the experimental studies on the bodily grounding of meaning and research on the full-body, dynamical nature of everyday communication. I will discuss what it means to say that psycholinguistics is “embodied” and how scholars can embrace the body as part of their ongoing research practices when conducting experiments on how people produce, understand, and learn language.



Stephen Matthews

University of Hong Kong

Transfer and anti-transfer in third language acquisition

The emerging field of third language acquisition opens up new and challenging questions. In particular, cross-linguistic influence can take multiple forms and directions. Recent studies have established that ‘reverse’ cross-linguistic influence from L3 to L2 can occur (e.g. Cheung, Matthews and Tsang 2011). A related possibility is that effects of L1 on L2 can be modulated by subsequent acquisition of an L3, as suggested in some studies in the Hong Kong context (e.g. Hui, 2010). To investigate these possibilities, a study was conducted to examine tense-aspect in the L2 English of Hong Kong students, comparing learners who studied German as L3 with controls who had not studied a European language. In a written production task, the L3 learners were found to produce non-target perfect tense forms (as in I have been to Germany last year) more frequently than the controls, reflecting negative reverse transfer from L3 to L2. However, another non-target usage common in Chinese learners, the use of uninflected verbs referring to the past in L2 English (as in Suddenly I fall down from the stage) was produced at a significantly lower rate by the L3 learners than the controls. This difference is attributed to the systematic tense inflection in German sensitizing learners to the need for morphological tense marking. Since it appears to involve L3 knowledge mitigating L1 transfer, the term anti-transfer is suggested for this phenomenon.



Virginia Yip                                   

Childhood Bilingualism Research Centre

Chinese University of Hong Kong

Input and bilingual development: a perspective from code-mixing      

The study of bilingual development in early childhood is a fundamental aspect of the psycholinguistics of bilingualism. A major issue in current research on bilingual children is the relationship between input and their language development. This paper examines the role of input in relation to code-mixing in bilingual children’s utterances. The investigation of data from 9 children in the Hong Kong Bilingual Child Language Corpus (Yip 2013, Yip and Matthews 2007) shows an asymmetry in the direction of mixing: mixing is more frequent in Cantonese transcripts than English ones. This is true of Cantonese-dominant children who are expected to have more need for code-mixing when producing English. As code-mixing is more common in adult Cantonese in the community and it is relatively infrequent to insert Cantonese words while speaking English, this is taken as evidence showing a close relationship between what children hear in the input and what they produce in code-mixing. Videos showing code-mixing in bilingual children will be used as illustrations.






研究儿童早期双语发展是从心理语言学角度研究双语发展的一个基本方面。目前关于双语儿童的研究的一个重要课题就是语言输入和语言发展的关系。本文通过研究双语儿童语句中的语码转换来考察语言输入的作用。我们分析香港双语儿童语料库(Yip 2013, Yip and Matthews 2007)的9名儿童的语料,发现语码转换的方向是不对称的:语码转换在粤语语料中的频率比在英语语料中的频率高。我们本来预期粤语占优势的双语儿童在说英语时会更多地需要转换语码,结果并非如此。由于社区中成人说粤语时语码转换更为常见,而说英语时相对较少插入粤语词汇,所以我们的双语儿童语料证实了儿童在语言输入中听到的和他们在语码转换中说出的有密切关系。在演讲中,我们会采用双语儿童语码转换的录像来作例子。






摘要:语言能折射出一个民族感知和理解世界所独具的思维方式,而一个民族也会以其独特的思维方式影响其语言的表征,将自己内在的思维方式外化为特定的语言结构,而这就是Wilhelm von Humboldt所提出的“语言内蕴形式”观(Inner Linguistic Form )的精髓,即语言就是民族精神,而民族精神就是语言。我们将在词构、句构和篇构三个层面阐发英汉民族的世界经验方式和思维方式在时空两方面各有其特质性偏向:英民族偏重于时间,而汉民族则偏重于空间。基于此,我们提出英语具有时间性特质和汉语具有空间性特质这一观点,阐幽显微,旨在从根本上探寻英汉语个性差异的深层起因。


Abstract: A language can reveal a unique way of how a nation perceives and understands the world. Likewise, a nation’s unique way of thinking can affect its linguistic representations, i.e., the nation’s internal way of thinking would be externalized into particular language structures. This is the essence of what Wilhelm von Humboldt maintains about the idea of inner linguistic form: the close association between the spirit of a people and the language a people speaks. On the basis of the analysis of the three linguistics levels, i.e., the structures of words, sentences and texts in English and Chinese, we attempt to demonstrate the two nations’ different ways of dissecting the world and encoding language structures: the English focuses dominantly upon time and the Chinese upon space. Grounded on this observation, we present our view that English is a temporality-prominent language and Chinese a spatiality-prominent language. This fundamental difference underlies many other differences between the two languages.

Key Words:English; Chinese; the temporal particularity of English; the spatial particularity of Chinese 







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