Fall is always full of conference-going. It’s an exciting time to share some of your latest findings and get feedback on projects that are in progress. It’s also very stimulating – cool new research happening everywhere, catching up with old friends and networking with others.
This year I presented some research at the annual meeting of the Psychonomic Society in New Orleans, LA, and at the California Meeting on Psycholinguistics at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
The project that I presented on at this meeting is an analysis that I have been working on with three research assistants in New York. We have been analyzing verbal fluency data from Spanish-English bilinguals in New York City. These bilinguals completed semantic and phonemic fluency tasks in both Spanish and English. We are analyzing their data in order to gain insight into their lexical organization and/or their lexical access. We are comparing their data to two control groups: English monolinguals and Spanish monolinguals (actually, native Spanish speakers with limited English proficiency) living in New York City. In order to characterize their performance, we are looking at number of words produced, average lexical frequency of the words they produced (in other words, are the words mostly highly frequent words in the language or do they also dig into their low-frequency vocabulary?), as well as the percent of words produced that are cognates. Cognates are words that overlap in both form and meaning in two languages, like bicycle and bicicleta in English and Spanish.
What we have found so far is that highly proficient Spanish-English bilinguals produced just as many words during the Spanish trials as Spanish controls and the words they produced were about the same level of word frequency. We included both early and late bilinguals, so this group included bilinguals who were born and raised in New York. However, there were some group differences for English trials. Early bilinguals showed the same patterns as English controls. However, late bilinguals produced fewer responses than English controls on the semantic fluency task and their responses were higher frequency (on average). Late bilinguals also produced a higher proportion of cognate on the phonemic task in English. Interestingly, the early bilinguals were in between the English controls and late bilinguals on all of these measures, suggesting more of a graded effect than a strict difference for late bilinguals.
We also investigated the characteristics of responses given over the course of the trial. Typically, responses in the beginning of the trial are high-frequency and responses decrease in frequency as the speaker searches deeper and deeper into their lexicon for exemplars. An odd pattern that we observed was that early bilinguals did not show this characteristic pattern on the phonemic fluency task. Their responses showed no relationship between frequency and response number (which was used to represent the time course). We are currently investigating why this pattern shows up for the early bilinguals by looking at some background variables that may differentiate them from late bilinguals or may produce interesting variability within the group.
You can find copies of the Psychonomics poster and the CAMP presentation on my ResearchGate profile: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Eve_Higby/research.
Last week we launched a chapter of Bilingualism Matters at UC Riverside. Bilingualism Matters is an organization that helps to communicate research on bi- and multilingualism to members of the local community. Many people are dealing with questions related to bilingualism, including educators, speech-language pathologists, and parents. Community members who don’t have access to the published research, much of which sits behind expensive journal subscription paywalls, are curious about what bilingual language development is like, what the best age to learn another language is, and whether speech errors during language development are normal or indicate some type of developmental issue. Bilingualism Matters focuses on outreach efforts, Q&A sessions, and a reliable resource for information on bilingualism.
The UCR chapter is the 3rd Bilingualism Matters chapter in the United States and the first one on the west coast. The co-directors of the new UCR chapter are Dr. Judith Kroll and Dr. Covadonga Lamar Prieto. They kicked off the launch with a full day of training on Bilingualism Matters by Dr. Antonella Sorace, the founder and director of Bilingualism Matters and a research professor at the University of Edinburgh. Then we held a one-day workshop showcasing a wide variety of research on bilingualism conducted by researchers all over Southern California.
I had the opportunity to present some of my new research in the poster session at the workshop. The poster explains the study design for the experiment that I just started this week as well as pilot data that I collected last spring on a simplified version of the design. The goal of this study is to investigate the use of cognitive control during word retrieval and to see how this may be different for bilinguals and monolinguals (or for different types of bilinguals) and in the context of aging.
To see a copy of the poster, click here: Higby_BilMatters_Oct 2017
Our abstract was accepted for the Psychonomic Society meeting in Vancouver in November! I’ll be presenting a poster titled Conflict regulation during bilingual lexical production Judith Kroll and Deborah Burke. I will present early data from my postdoc project at UC Riverside.
Here is the abstract of our poster. Hope to see some of you at the meeting!
To plan speech, bilinguals must select appropriate words among competing alternatives both within the target and non-target language. These demands on lexical selection engage regulatory mechanisms, such as monitoring and inhibitory control, but the precise nature of this regulation is not well understood. The first goal of the present study was to investigate the types of regulation that are involved when bilinguals plan spoken words. Spanish-English bilinguals named colored pictures in a task-switching paradigm (naming either the object or the color of the object). Distractors (color and object words) were presented before the picture to enhance attentional conflict or to induce lexical conflict. A second goal was to ask how variation in bilingual language experience influences language regulation ability. We hypothesized that early age of second language acquisition, high proficiency in both languages, and language immersion experience may modulate the relative contribution of different mechanisms of language control.
I had a great time in Limerick, Ireland at the International Symposium on Bilingualism. This is one of my favorite conferences to go to because it brings together so many people who are investigating bilingualism in many different ways.
My talk focused on whether the degree of influence that the second language has on the first language is affected by the age of second language acquisition. One might expect that early bilinguals, who learn both languages simultaneously or in short succession, might experience greater influence of their second language on their first because their language systems are still quite malleable. Late bilinguals, who learned the second language in adolescence or older, may not experience as much of a change to their first language upon acquiring the second.
What my data show is that both early and late bilinguals showed the same type of influence of the second language on the first. This finding (along with other studies) suggests that the first language is malleable to language experiences even in adolescence or adulthood. We never stop adapting!
It was a pleasure to hear a keynote presentation from Jean-Marc Dewaele, whose talk was informative and funny, and overall delightful.
Two weeks ago I attended the annual meeting of the Linguistic Society of America in Austin, TX. There were several interesting talks and some really great keynotes. I gave two presentations. One was a talk on second-language influence on first-language sentence comprehension that was part of a session on language processing and acquisition (pictured). I presented some of my electrophysiology results and discussed how the results might lead to models of bilingual syntactic representation. We had a great audience for the session with insightful questions. I’m happy to see the interest in bilingual language processing at this meeting.
The other presentation I gave was a poster on non-native phonemic perception. We looked at allophonic pairs in Spanish that are contrastive in English. Since these allophones have different phonotactic constraints in Spanish, we asked whether those constraints influence the ability to perceive the phonemic pair contrastively in their non-native language, English. If you want to see the poster, head over to my publications page and click on the poster title to download it!
Last week the UC Riverside Postdoctoral Association hosted the 2016 UCR Postdoctoral Symposium. There were 12 talks from UCR postdocs in a variety of disciplines including Plant Sciences, Neuroscience, Electrical Engineering, and Comparative Literature, among others, as well as a poster session.
I gave a presentation called Bilingualism and its Consequences on the Native Language. The talk included a brief overview of some of the interesting recent research in the psychology of bilingualism and gave a short overview of my dissertation findings. I was blown away when they gave me an award for 2nd best presentation!
The event was a great opportunity to meet other postdocs on campus and see what kind of work is being done at UCR. I hope I can participate again next year!
Last week I had a chance to attend the International Workshop on Language Production in La Jolla, CA. It was held at the Museum of Contemporary Art, a very cool space. I presented a poster on some findings from a bilingual naming study I did in New York. Native speakers of Brazilian Portuguese named pictures in their first language and then we assessed which pictures they also knew the English name for. The aim of the study was to assess whether second-language labels compete or interfere with word retrieval in the first language. What we found was the opposite: pictures were named faster if they were known in both English and Portuguese. More details can be found on the poster I presented: Higby_IWLP poster