Speaker: Anna Wolleb
Topic: The role of executive function in cross-language priming
As argued by, among others, Bialystok (2009), being bilingual comes with a cognitive advantage, which is specific to the subdomain of executive function that involves inhibitory control. In a bilingual mind, both languages are always active and available to the speaker, and the continuous competition between them requires a mechanism for controlling attention to the target language, while inhibiting the interfering one.
An unexplored area of research concerns the role that inhibitory control might have in cross-language priming. Research carried out on bilingual adults provides us with strong evidence that bilinguals have a shared syntactic representation for similar strucutures between languages. However, little attention has been reserved to the potential differences in the size of the effect within- and across- language priming. If bilingual speakers do in fact inhibit the language they are not using during priming tasks, this should result in an advantage for within-language over across-language priming. Another interesting question to investigate is whether cross-language priming would be possible when one of the two languages allows for two options, depending on pragmatic factors, and the other language only allows for one option in all pragmatic contexts.
In this talk I will present my project on the role of executive function in cross-language priming in Norwegian-English bilingual children. I will focus on two structures: the dative vs prepositional object, and the prenominal vs postnominal possessive pronoun. I will present my hypotheses, participants and experimental design.