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


In September 2015, AThEME partner Laboratoire de Linguistique de Nantes (University of Nantes) hosted the 12th Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition conference (GALA 12). As stated in these proceedings: “The conference Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition is the biannual meeting of researchers working on language development from a generative perspective. It provides a forum for discussion of the most recent advances on first and second language acquisition, heritage language and bilingual acquisition, language pathology, the acquisition of sign language and neurolinguistics.”

In this volume, 18 high-quality and diverse papers are presented, which will prove “a valuable reference guide for the researchers working in the domain of language acquisition and language development from a generative perspective.”

Language Acquisition and Development Proceedings of GALA 2015

In this article researchers test the grammatical and pragmatic abilities of earlier bilinguals in comparison with monolinguals. The results show that though bilinguals underperformed in grammatical tests, they outperformed monolinguals in pragmatic abilities. The researchers traced this bilingual advantage to a more general bilingual advantage in executive control: bilinguals have more cognitive resources which help them to have a better grip on non-linguistic information.

(to appear)

The aim of this article is to investigate the impact of the linguistic distance on morphological processing in native and non-native speakers. Experimental evidence from Basque-Spanish and Spanish-Basque early and highly proficient bilinguals suggests that when L1 and L2 differ significantly in grammatical characteristics (as in Basque and Spanish), the characteristics of the L1 grammar, regardless of whether there are aspects that are similar to L2, have a deep impact on the way L2 is processed.

(to appear)

Researchers investigated early bilinguals (bilingual in Spanish and Basque from birth), and tested their processing of Spanish. Though all participants achieved high level proficiency, those who are “Spanish-dominant” due to daily use showed different processing from those who are “Basque-dominant” (due to daily use). The study concludes that language dominance (through daily use) is an important factor when we consider the early stages of the attrition process.

This article was published in:

  • Caffarra, S., Zimnukhova, S., & Mancini, S. (2016)
    What usage can do: The effect of language dominance on simultaneous bilinguals’ morphosyntactic processing.
    Linguistics Vanguard, 2, 43-53. Doi: 10.1515/lingvan-2016-0020.

This article investigates the mechanisms responsible for fast changes in processing foreign-accented speech.

Overall, our results suggest that, despite a lack of improvement in phonetic discrimination, native listeners experience changes at lexical-semantic levels of processing after brief exposure to foreign-accented speech. Moreover, these results suggest that lexical access, semantic integration and linguistic re-analysis processes are permeable to external factors, such as the accent of the speaker.

Processing changes when listening to foreign-accented speech


This article was published in:

  • Romero-Rivas C, Martin CD and Costa A (2015) Processing changes when listening to foreign-accented speech. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 9:167. doi: 10.3389/ fnhum.2015. 00167


In this report the AThEME partners working on research theme ‘Regional Languages’ have provided an overview of grammatical diversity in the minority languages and dialects they are investigating. The report offers an overview of language variation between the minority languages and the majority languages that they are in contact with and defines an agenda for research on the dynamics and effects of language contact and language change.

State of the Art Report on Grammatical Diversity of Regional Languages (pdf)

The main objective of the report is to make available, in a single document, a selection of the most important information about the maintenance of regional bilingualism by the different ‘Regional Languages’ research groups and their language varieties of study: Basque, Dutch, Fiuman, Gallo, Sardinian, Primorska Slovenian and varieties spoken in Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol. Information deemed relevant to researchers is included in the report, such as number of speakers, community members’ attitudes toward their own language, intergenerational language transmission or international presence of the language.

State of the art report on maintenance of regional bilingualism (version 1.2) (pdf)


This state-of-the-art paper discusses new forms of languages that have emerged in multilingual areas of European cities (these new styles are known as multiethnolects). The paper reviews research from the past decade and explores sociological attitudes towards these language variants and was published as part of Queen Mary Occasional Papers Advancing Linguistics.

Working Paper on Emerging Multiethnic Dialects (pdf)

AThEME is a five-year long EU-funded research project, bringing together world-class linguists from all over Europe. Together, they aim to increase our understanding of what it means to speak multiple languages in Europe today.


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