Language Acquisition, Processing and Cognitive Neuroscience: Back-to-back talks (Dec 2, UiT)

The research group LAVA/AcqVA is hosting two talks on language acquisition, processing and cognitive neuroscience next Monday, December 2, by two of our new Professor IIs  Ludovica Serratrice (University of Reading) and Jubin Abutalebi (Università Vita-Salute San Raffaele). They are not only among the most prolific researchers in our extended field, but some of the most engaging speakers there are. All are welcome to attend. The titles and abstracts for their talks can be found below these lines.

The talks will take place at the University Library’s Auditorium (UB 132)12:30-14:30.  The first talk will be that of Professor Ludovica Serratrice.

Ludovica Serratrice – The developmental relationship between vocabulary and grammar in children with English as an additional language

A strong association between children’s vocabulary and grammar has been extensively reported in the literature, but the directionality of the relationship over time is a subject of much theoretical debate. In this talk I will present longitudinal data from 100 bilingual children with English as an additional language, assessed three times between the ages of 5;8 and 6;8. A series of simple and bivariate models investigated the growth of vocabulary depth and breadth, of morphological and syntactic abilities, and the effect of English input, SES, maternal education, and age.

The simple growth models highlighted an important effect of relative amount of English input on initial levels of vocabulary and grammar skills, but in terms of growth English input only had an effect on vocabulary depth. Age had a significant effect on vocabulary depth scores, but not on their growth. The bivariate growth models highlighted a consistent relationship between the intercepts of grammar and vocabulary, but not their slopes, suggesting a link between these skills, but differential growth over time. Three of the models also highlighted a significant relationship between the intercept for grammar knowledge and the slope of vocabulary, suggesting that children with better grammatical skills also tended to have a steeper vocabulary growth.

These results confirm the importance of considering relative amount of input when investigating the language abilities of bilingual children, as well as suggesting a differentiation between the growth of vocabulary breadth and depth, with the latter likely to be more vulnerable in children with lower language exposure. The results of the bivariate growth models also suggest a significant role of morpho-syntactic abilities for the growth of vocabulary depth in this group of bilinguals.

Jubin Abutalebi – Control and Adaptation: Bilingualism and Neuroplasticity

In the last two decades there has been an upsurge of research on the bilingual brain. Although the world is multilingual, only recently have cognitive and language scientists realized that the use of two or more languages provides a unique lens to examine the neural plasticity engaged by language experience.

In the last 20 years we have learned that the two languages are always active, creating a context in which there is mutual influence and the potential for interference. Yet proficient bilinguals rarely make errors of language, suggesting that they have developed exquisite mechanisms of cognitive control.  During my presentation, I will mapp out the cognitive and neural bases of language control that enable individuals to speak each of their two or more languages and, further, I will illustrate the consequences that these control mechanisms might hold more generally.

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