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Language and Learning Group Seminars: Noorin Rodenhurst/Marion Coumel

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Next week we will have two speakers presenting at the language and learning group seminar! The talks will take place on Wednesday the 16th of June at 15:00.

Noorin will be presenting a talk entitled: Monolingual and bilingual children’s interpretation of novel verbs and its relationship with executive function.

Abstract: Investigating young children’s sentence interpretation with novel verbs can be informative of their acquisition of syntactic representations (Noble et al., 2011). Most research has been conducted with (high socioeconomic status (SES)) monolingual children (e.g., Rowland & Noble, 2010) but many children grow up in bilingual environments. The current study compares monolingual and bilingual populations (as well as attempting to compare those from high and low SES backgrounds). Introducing bilinguals to the study allowed for an examination of the relationship with executive function, with much research claiming there is a bilingual advantage in cognitive tasks (Bialystok & Martin, 2004). Monolingual pre-schoolers’ sentence interpretation has been found to be positively related to executive function (Woodard et al., 2016), but the relationship with bilinguals remains unclear. The current study tests children’s comprehension of sentences with novel verbs as a measure of syntactic development and a non-verbal Stroop task as a measure of their executive function, specifically inhibition. Online testing is ongoing; preliminary results will be presented along with a discussion on the development of the study.

Marion will be presenting a talk entitled: The role of explicit memory in early L2 syntactic development: A structural priming study.

Abstract: The developmental theory of shared syntactic representations (Hartsuiker & Bernolet, 2017) states that in the earliest phases of second language (L2) acquisition, item-specific priming within the L2 (i.e., with lexical overlap between prime and target sentences) results from explicit memory strategies, whereas in later phases it also reflects the formation of item-specific syntactic representations within the L2. Hence, if learners cannot use explicit memory strategies to formulate sentences, those in later phases of L2 acquisition should be more likely to exhibit structural priming with lexical overlap. We compared within-L2 structural priming in 200 low and highly proficient L2 speakers of French under low vs. high working memory (WM) load conditions (within-subjects) in a web-based experiment. We induced the WM load with a dual task design, where the L2 learners recalled letter series presented between primes and target sentences. We predicted that, while both groups would show more priming in the low vs. the high WM load condition (because priming is influenced by explicit memory in both groups), the difference between conditions would be larger in the low proficiency group. The current results provide preliminary support for these predictions. Participants (N=166) experienced significant priming across groups and load conditions but this priming was overall larger in the low than in the high load condition. Though the effect of load on priming did not significantly differ between groups, the overall tendency goes in this direction.

Contact: Jacob Barker

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