Sei sulla pagina 1di 48


Pyscholinguistics and Bilingualism
Sir Doctor Umar-ud-Din

Pyscholinguistics and
Psycholinguistics is the field of study that
discusses how language is produced
and understood.
Psycholinguists are the experts who are
interested in assembling data to support
theories of how language is organized in
the brain. These theories underlie models
that psycholinguists posit about the parts
of the brain devoted to language

Recently, more and more psycholinguists

have become interested in bilingualism.

A major reason is that the ability to use
two languages, and how they are used,
can tell us something about what
features or processes in the brain
underlie language abilities in general
that studying only one language may
not reveal.

Most studies by psycholinguists are

experimental studies. That is,

experimental researchers study human
participants in a laboratory setting where the
researchers can control exactly what
information is presented to the subjects.
Also, they can vary the information with
similar or different participants in order to test
specific hypotheses.

The Goal of Psycholinguists

The goal of some of the psycholinguists

concerned with bilinguals also is to study

comprehension, but many study production.
Some researchers are interested in such topics
as how fast bilinguals who are shown a word
on a computer screen can identify which of the
languages the word comes from under various
conditions (it might be the bilinguals have just
been shown a word from other language). This
is the study of comprehension .

Production Study
On the other hand, with

some sort of distraction

present on the screen,
bilinguals may be asked to
produce the word in a
specified language that
names a picture. This is a
production study.

The Bilingual Lexicon

The nature of the bilingual

lexicon is a theme that is

relevant to just about every
other theme. Think of the
bilingual lexicon as a sort of
abstract dictionary in the mind

Where is Language in
Bilingual Brain? Continued
In the field of psycholinguistics, the study of the

acquisition of the native language (L1) has given

rise to a large number of models. The parameter
setting approach has become the leading model
for many investigators (Gass & Selinker, 1994).
Linguistic parameters, i.e., sets of possible
grammatical and phonological variations (values)
within a frame of invariant principles, are
considered to be part of the innate endowment
of Universal Grammar (Chomsky, 1968).

Where is Language in
Bilingual Brain?
Advanced by many neurologists in the past

was the hypothesis suggesting that all

languages known by a bilingual or a polyglot
are localized in the same cerebral areas.
Parallel recovery of both languages in
bilingual aphasics is rather common. It led to
a subsequent conclusion that there is no basis
for postulating a separate cerebral
organization of different languages in the
bilingual brain (Fabbro, 1999).

Who is a Bilingual?
A bilingual is a person who speaks

two or more languages. Some studies

test more than two languages.
An early bilingual is defined as
someone who acquires his or her two
languages before the age of seven to
nine (although the term can refer to
an earlier age), and a late one is
someone who acquires them at some
later point.

Compound Bilinguals
If speakers acquired them in the

same context, they were called

compound bilinguals. The
assumption was that the languages
of compound bilinguals were
interdependent in the sense that one
abstract concept (supporting a
meaning) was realized as two
different words, one in each
language, but there was only one

Coordinate Bilingual
In contrast, a coordinate bilingual was

learned his or her languages in

different environments (e.g. one at
home and one at school). For the
coordinate bilingual, the claim was that
words in different languages that stood
for the same object or concept each had
their own ties to the pre-linguistic
conceptual level (in a model of language).

Two other Divisions

First, bilingualism can be either

active (the speaker actually

speaks and understands both
languages) or passive (the
speaker understands his or her
L2, but either cant or chooses not
to speak it). Second, a bilingual may
be a simultaneous bilingual (both
languages acquired at the same time)
or a sequential bilingual (one

The Relationship between Thought

and a Specific Language
There is an age-old argument under

what is called the Whorfian

hypothesis (also called the Sapir
Whorf hypothesis) about the
connection between the structure of a
specific language and how its speakers
conceptualize the world. The strong
version of the hypothesis suggests
that the way a person understands the
world is controlled by his or her

Other Hypothesis
This hypothesis has some more current, generally

weaker, versions, too. Consider Pavlenko (2000: 3), who

argues that some differences exist in how different
bilinguals conceptualize the world that are based partly
(apparently) on input from their languages and cultures.
She writes that in the study of bilingualism, conceptual
representations should be treated as related but not
equivalent to word meanings . . . While some concepts
may overlap partially or even completely between any
two languages/ cultures in question, any claim of
correspondence requires evidence and cannot be
implicitly assumed. Also see Gumperz and Levinson
(1996) and Gentner and Goldin-Meadow (2003).

A common Semantic
System or not?
An early proposal was that words from the

bilinguals several languages were represented

separately, but that they shared a common
semantic system; that is, under this view,
there would be a single memory store with
semantic representations for both languages.
This has been referred to as the
interdependence model. Some
researchers still support this view,
basically arguing that there is a single
memory store for both languages.

A common semantic system or not?

But later studies of various aspects of

bilingualism suggest otherwise. They support

an independence model. That is, the more
current view is that bilinguals have two
distinct memories and semantic systems.
However, as will become clear in later sections
and in the next chapter, this view about
separate entries (i.e. an abstract item in the
mental lexicon) does not mean that both
systems could not be activated at the same

Objects may be classified differently or viewed

differently in relation to other objects across

languages. For example, an object such as rice is
not necessarily the same entity cross-linguistically.
For some cultures (and their languages) cooked
rice and even rice cooked in different ways are
called by a number of different names than
uncooked rice. Also, not all containers that may be
called a bottle in some languages will be called by
a counterpart to bottle in other languages;
instead, a bottle may be called by the word for
container or some other word.

The Mental Lexicon and Lemmas

Once beyond the level of concepts and at

the level underlying actual language,

research supports the idea of a common
mental lexicon. But this abstract
lexicon is not fused; it has different entries
for the bilinguals two (or more) languages.
These entries are generally called lemmas
by psycholinguists (philosophers and
lexicographers use the term differently,
each somewhat differently from the other).

The Mental Lexicon and Lemmas

Psycholinguists generally agree that

lemmas are tagged in some way so

that all lemmas are languagespecific. The idea is that lemmas
are not words, but underlie the actual
words that are produced in speech (i.e.
on the surface level as opposed to the
abstract level); that is, lemmas only
exist in an abstract sense.

Levels of Activation
Grosjean (e.g. 2001) speaks of a continuum

along which speakers can move in his

Language Mode model, he says that if the
bilingual has just been using both languages
and he or she then shifts to speaking only one
language, the speaker is still in the bilingual
mode. That is, activation varies. In Grosjeans
model, a bilinguals motivation to move from a
monolingual mode to a bilingual mode
depends on a number of factors, including
proficiency but the task and the situation.

What are Cognates?

Words are called cognates across languages if they

come from the same source, because the languages

in question come from a presumed common
ancestor. Cognates share form and meaning. Thus,
English hound is cognate with German hund dog
and the two languages are related in their origins;
both English and German are Germanic languages.
Many languages have similar words because they
are borrowed from a single source language; for
example, democracy is borrowed from Greek. But
such similar words do not count as cognates.

Distractors that Slow down Reaction

Distractors are strings of letters that

resemble the test word in some way.

Sometimes neighbors are used as distractors;
these are real words in either of the test
languages. They are defined as words differing
by a single letter, but with order and word length
maintained. So, for example, the English word word
has neighbors in English that include the word
work. In both identifying and processing distractors
and target words, spelling conventions as well as
phonology (pronunciation) are involved.

Distractors called
Sometimes there are distractors

that are called enemies. An

enemy may resemble the target
word in its spelling, but it differs
in how its pronounced. So in
English, word and wore are
enemies because their vowels
are pronounced differently even
though they are both written as

Distractors and Level of Proficiency

Very proficient bilinguals had slower

response times than less proficient

ones. That is, very proficient
bilinguals had slow response times
when both the prime and the target
words were from the same language, but
had even slower response times when the
prime and target words came from
different languages.

Global Effects as
Another possible distractor in bilingual tests is

what has been called global lexical

activation. Most studies seem to show there
is some activation carryover from one
language to the next. This includes not
only carryover from what has been going on in
the session, but also from what the participant
is told at the beginning of the session about
which language will be used. Again, a finding
such as this indicates that both of the
bilinguals languages are on.

Adding Bilinguals to
Language-Production Models
Two Models
(the Inhibitory Control model and the Revised

Hierarchical model. These are top-down models,

with accounts beginning at a conceptual level and
comparing languages in regard to how one language is
more activated than the other or how meanings may be
differently accessed in the two languages.
The third model, the BIA+ model, is a model of how
both languages may be activated in word
recognition or comprehension. It is a bottom-up
model because it deals with word form, not word

Inhibitory Control (IC)

the Inhibitory Control (IC) model of Green

(1998) offers answers to the questions related

to how bilinguals keep from producing both of
their languages at the same time when this
isnt their intention. This model assumes that
there is a supervisory attentional system (SAS)
that controls the activation of task schemas.
A task may be something such as naming a
picture or translating a word, so the motivation
to inhibit a language depends on non-linguistic
contexts external to a language or its word.

Inhibitory Control (IC)

The key to this model is that the activation or

inhibition of schemas is what regulates language

selection. Language-task schemas can send
directions to access a word from the lexico-semantic
system (i.e. the mental lexicon, composed of abstract
entries underlying actual surface forms). But the SAS
has to specify the required language to the task
schemas (information the SAS gets from the
conceptualizer in a top-down fashion). Green states, A
language task schema regulates the outputs from the
lexico-semantic system by altering the activation levels
of presentation within that system and by inhibiting
outputs from the system

The Revised Hierarchical Model

In a second model oriented to bilingual production,

Kroll and Stewart (1994) hypothesize differences in

how L1 and L2 words are accessed in order to explain
at least part of selection in their Revised Hierarchical
model. Like many others, they propose that words
that are translation equivalents are connected. In this
model, counterparts across languages are connected in
two ways both through a common concept that they
stand for, but also by direct associative links that are at
the word level. But the critical point is that this model
gives preference to the L1. Its words are more
strongly connected to concepts than are L2 words.

The Bilingual Interactive Activation

+ model
Finally, consider a model that is oriented toward

comprehension, the Bilingual Interactive Activation

(BIA+) model of Dijkstra and van Heuven (2002). The
BIA+ is the latest version of the BIA model of 1994. Its called
an interactive model because feedback between levels in the
system of language production is allowed. But it is also a
bottom-up model. This means selection of a language, in
effect, starts with activating the phonological and
orthographic features (sound and letter features) of a
this model rejects a powerful language-specific
inhibition mechanism that would be found in a topdown model (in which the initial selection is to inhibit one
language and activate the other)

Many studies have attempted to understand

what we call memory.

Neurologists have identified areas of the brain
associated with a storing process (Luria, 1976;
Squire, 1987). These are the cortical areas that
also support cognitive processes, including
language. But what changes occur are largely
unknown, even though a name has been given
to what happens, long-term potentiation,
with the implication that a potential exists to
recall the task or experience.

PET scans were used to measure brain activity

in bilingual brains
People who grew up bilingual had brain
activity in the same area of the Brocas area.
People who learned a second language later
in life activity was found in two separate parts
of the Brocas area.
Wernickes Area stores the ability to
understand and process information for both
early and late bilinguals.

Brocas Area

Broca's areawas named after French surgeon

PaulBroca, who is accredited with determining

the significance and function of thispart of the
brain.Broca's areais located in the
lowerportionof the left frontal lobe of
Broca's areaor theBroca areais a region
in thefrontal lobeof the
(usually the left) of the hominidbrainwith
functions linked tospeech production.

Wernickes Area

Wernickes Area
Thisareawas first described in

1874 by German neurologist Carl

Wernicke. TheWernicke areais
located in the posterior third of
the upper temporal convolution of
the left hemisphere of thebrain.
Thus, it lies close to the auditory

Wernicke's area
Wernicke's areaalso called

Wernicke's speech area, is one of

the two parts of thecerebral
cortexlinked, since the late
nineteenth century, to speech
(the other is Broca's area). It is
involved in the production of
written and spoken language.

Types of Memory
William Jamess distinction between

primary and secondary memory (James,

1890) was refined to referring to shortand long-term memory, but then in the
1960s to short- and long-term store.
Evidence from normal persons
supported this distinction, but even
stronger evidence came from comparing
memory loss in patients with brain lesions,
especially two patients.

Declarative and Procedural Memory

Declarative memory is also called explicit

memory, and procedural memory is also called

implicit memory. Think of these as two different
stores for two, different types of knowledge.
Declarative memory refers to knowledge that is
learned and the individual can express it at well.
There are two subtypes of declarative memory:
semantic memory (encyclopedic knowledge of
things learned about the world); and episodic
memory (past experiences that we can recall
consciously). Note that semantic memory
includes the meaning of words that youve learned.

Procedural Memory
Procedural memory refers to learning (or

acquisition) that may have depended on

repeated execution of a task, but how much
awareness was involved in the task varies. A
defining feature of such knowledge is that
what it is is not something you can articulate.
And its knowledge used without conscious
control. The best example of knowledge in
procedural memory is the acquisition of certain
aspects of your first language.

Working Memory
Researchers postulate that a system

called working memory exists. It

is assumed to contain and process
information but to contain it only
temporarily. The assumption is that
working memory takes part in tasks
such as reasoning, comprehension,
and learning. It includes a
phonological store (where verbal
information is kept for two or fewer

Separate Memory Systems for L2s?

An L1 is learned by means of implicit

strategies (procedural memory results), or at

least, critical aspects of the L1s grammatical
apparatus depend on procedural memory. But
an L2 may be learned more formally, involving
memorizing words and grammatical structures,
employing mainly or entirely declarative
memory). Evidence comes from many sources,
but especially from certain types of aphasia in
which the bilinguals two languages are not
both lost or both retained.

Aphasia is the formal term for

the partial or total loss of the

ability to speak and/or comprehend
language; it is caused by injuries or
disease, including stroke. And it is
more common than many people
realize. Worldwide, there are about
300,000 new cases of aphasia every
year. Of these, 40,000 may be cases
of bilingual aphasia (M. Paradis,

Patterns of recovery
Aphasic bilinguals do not necessarily recover both or all of

their languages. If they do recover either language or both,

it is not necessarily at the same rate or to the same extent.
Parallel recovery: The most common pattern is that both
languages are impaired in the same ways and both are
restored at the same rate.
Differential recovery: Each language shows a different
degree of impairment.
Successive recovery: One language doesnt begin to
recover until the other has been largely recovered.
Antagonistic recovery: One language loses ground as the
other one improves.
Selective recovery: The patient doesnt regain any recovery
of one of the languages.