Can you shut off the first language in a second language?

ERI Building - G51 (Ground Floor)
Tuesday 17 May 2016 (15:00-17:00)
Photograph of Dr Kathy Conklin
Dr Kathy Conklin

A central question in second language research has been whether a first language (L1) is active during second language (L2) processing.

One way in which this debate has played out is in the area of lexical access. This research has focused on whether people who speak two languages can selectively access lexical representations depending on which language is being used, or whether instead word representations from both languages are co-activated regardless of the language of processing.

While there is now a fairly robust literature showing that the L1 is activated while processing in the L2, a few significant questions remain. First does co-activation of the L1 occur when processing in the L2 for cross-script bilinguals (e.g. Japanese-English, Chinese-English), where script could provide a potentially salient cue for language activation? Further, does the degree of cross-linguistic overlap, in terms of phonology and semantics, impact this co-activation? While co-activation is readily apparent in priming tasks, does this extend to more ‘natural’ processing in cross-script bilinguals, for example in the context of reading a text? Finally, does co-activation extend to units beyond single words to multi-word sequences like idioms? The current research presented in this talk will look at each of these questions.

Speaker: Dr Kathy Conklin, Associate Professor in Psycholinguistics (University of Nottingham)

Venue: ERI Building - Room G51