Dissemination

Posts

AThEME has published a second European Policy Brief , this time on multilingualism and communicative impairment.

Based on AThEME research findings dealing with communicative impairment, this document is intended to present policy-relevant findings to (European) decision-makers as well as offer them research-based policy recommendations.

Published on the European Commission website showcasing Social Sciences & Humanities research:

MULTILINGUALISM AND COMMUNICATIVE IMPAIRMENT: IMPLICATIONS FOR POLICY

AThEME has published a first European Policy Brief on Regional Minority Languages.

Based on AThEME research findings dealing with regional minority languages, this document is intended to present policy-relevant findings to (European) decision-makers as well as offer them research-based policy recommendations.

Published on the European Commission website showcasing Social Sciences & Humanities research:

MULTILINGUALISM AND REGIONAL MINORITY LANGUAGES: IMPLICATIONS FOR POLICY

What do childhood bilingualism and musical training at an early age have in common when it comes to detecting prosody (i.e. rhythm, intonation and tone)? A new study by AThEME researchers from the University of Nova Gorica and the French National Centre for Scientific Research suggests that both types of experience enhance children’s sensitivity to prosodic information. Specifically, researchers found that either experience increased the children’s ability to distinguish between different prosodic patterns in an unknown language.

Published (open access) in:

This article is a collaboration between AThEME partners CNRS-L2C2 (French National Centre for Scientific Research L2C2) and the Center for Cognitive Science of Language at the University of Nova Gorica in Slovenia.

The aim of this research was to replicate existing studies by testing both adult L2 learners and child early bilinguals, using the same experimental material in both studies, and comparing both populations to monolingual controls. Adult French L2 learners of English and Spanish (in their two languages) as well as monolingual controls were tested in a first experiment, and child early bilinguals (in their two languages, Slovenian and Italian) as well as monolingual controls were tested in the second experiment.

Appears in:

Does degree of bilingualism influence executive functioning (i.e. cognitive processes including attention and working memory) in children, and, if so, is this effect sustained over time? That is exactly what researchers from the Fryske Akademy, the University of Amsterdam, Leiden University and Utrecht University attempted to find out in this new study focusing on Frisian-Dutch* bilingual children. Researchers had 120 Frisian-Dutch bilingual children (5- and 6-year-olds) perform two attention and two working memory tasks. These tests were then repeated on two more occasions.

The results of this study show that degree of bilingualism – defined in terms of language balance – has a positive effect on the children’s executive functioning. However, the effect was temporary and limited to selective attention.

 

Published (open access) in:

 

*Frisian, or West Frisian as it is referred to outside of the Netherlands, is a regional minority language in the Netherlands. It is the second official language of the Dutch province of Fryslân and, as such, must be taught in Frisian primary schools for at least one hour a week.

This study, developed by the University of Verona (Italy), in collaboration with the University of Trento (Italy) and the Xiamen University (China), sheds light on the relationship between bilingualism and developmental dyslexia by comparing the performance of monolingual and bilingual children, with and without a diagnosis of dyslexia, in a task set up to assess metalinguistic and morphological awareness.

Preliminary findings suggest that a bilingual advantage extends to children with dyslexia. This is an exciting and important finding for all the educators, speech therapists and teachers who think that bilingualism may have a negative influence on dyslexia and therefore may tend to provide families of dyslexic children with negative advice when it comes to bilingualism. The results of this study show that in many cases bilingualism can even act as a positive, protective factor on dyslexia, especially in enhancing the subjects’ metalinguistic and morphological awareness.

Published in:

  • Maria Vender, Shenai Hu, Federica Mantione, Silvia Savazzi, Denis Delfitto & Chiara Melloni (2018). Inflectional morphology: evidence for an advantage of bilingualism in dyslexia, International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, DOI: 10.1080/13670050.2018.1450355.

In this particular study, researchers from Ghent University, the Center for Brain and Cognition at the University Pompeu Fabra and ICREA (Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats) in Barcelona, Spain have examined whether a foreign accent affects communication and the behaviour a native speaker adopts when having a conversation with a speaker that has a foreign accent. They set up an experiment using a referential communication game in which participants received instructions either from a native speaker or a foreign-accented speaker.

It turned out that native speakers do not change their behaviour when communicating with someone with a foreign accent. These results replicate findings from previous studies. Native speakers didn’t adopt a more ‘helpful’ way of communicating (compared to communicating with a native speaker) but they also didn’t change their communication ‘for the worse’ (perhaps informed by a negative bias toward speakers with a foreign accent). As the researchers conclude in this article: “Results show that native speakers do not change their behaviour when communicating with a foreign-accented speaker, hence, suggesting that perspective taking is not affected by the native-ness of one’s conversational partner’s accent.

 

(to appear)

 

Foucart, A. & Costa, A.. Taking a foreign perspective. Does a foreign accent affect communication? 

Residents of nursing homes often find it difficult to develop (new) social relationships with other residents, even though these social relationships can contribute to quality of life, life meaning and satisfaction and feelings of belonging. Until now, little research has been done on the role language practices can play in encouraging residents to develop and maintain these social networks.

For this particular study, researchers from the The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) spent time collecting data at a relatively large nursing home in Maastricht in the Netherlands. By observing participants and conducting informal interviews, they explored the development of social networks among residents during different settings in the common area of the nursing home.

The results of this study show that language is an important factor for nursing home residents to be able to develop a social network. Due to the associations people make with linguistic features, residents prefer to develop a social network with those who are perceived to speak the same language or dialect.

One of the advantages of being bi-/multi-lingual is said to connect to the inhibitory control system that one uses to switch from one language to the other. To speak L2, one has to suppress L1. To understand this system better, the study reported in this article pays attention to the mode that a participant is in (the native L1 mode, the non-native L2 mode, or a mode where both L1 and L2 are used equally). This study shows that the particular mode that a participant is in crucially determines how the inhibitory control works. When a participant is in the L2 mode, L2 functions more like an L1, leading to the same inhibitory control behaviour that we find if the participant is in the L1 mode. In other words, suppressing L2 can yield the same inhibitory control as suppressing L1 if one is in an L2 mode.

(to appear)

This article is a direct collaboration between three AThEME partners (the University of Verona, the French National Centre for Scientific Research CNRS-IKER and Utrecht University). It consists of three case studies based on three geographic areas, each investigating a specific grammar change phenomenon in which multilingual competence plays a key role: (i) Friesland, The Netherlands (ii) the Region Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol and (iii) the Basque Country.

Researchers found that grammar change results from interaction of the feature systems of the languages in contact. Specifically, Frisian verbs take over features from the Dutch language, and Cimbrian, a Germanic minority language, takes over characteristics of subordinating conjunctions found in surrounding Romance languages. These two cases illustrate a minority language taking over features from a majority language. The reverse also happens: a majority language taking over features from a minority language, as the researchers found in Spanish interrogative constructions produced by certain Basque-Spanish bilingual speakers. In particular, Basque “interrogative characteristics” have been found in Spanish interrogative sentences produced by bilingual speakers.

These finding are important in that they underline the bilateral nature of linguistic relations and the interconnectivity between the speakers by means of taking over aspects from each other’s language.

Minority languages in language contact situations: three case studies on language change (Nov 2016)

 

This article is also published in the journal ‘Us Wurk’:

  • Padovan, Andrea; Alessandra, Tomaselli; Bergstra, Myrthe; Corver, Norbert; Etxepare, Ricardo; Dold, SimonMinority languages in language contact situations: three case studies on language change Us Wurk, vol. Jiergong 65 (2016), n. jefte 3-42016pp. 146-174