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Activities and Seminars

Bencie Woll. Phonological processing in sign language: linguistic and neuroscience perspectives.
 
Date: Feb 04, 2016

What: Phonological processing in sign language: linguistic and neuroscience perspectives

Where: BCBL Auditorium

Who: Professor Bencie Woll, Department of Human Communication Science, UCL, London, UK.

When: 12 noon


This presentation explores two related areas. In the first, I will discuss behavioural data on phonological processing by individuals who were late learners of an L1 or who have never fully acquired a first language. In the second part, I will discuss the extent to which the application of the term ‘phonology’ to signed languages has neurological as well as linguistic and psycholinguistic validity – that is, whether similar neural activity is involved in phonological processing both signed and spoken languages, using data from several functional imaging studies of the phonological processing of sign language. Results suggest strikingly similar patterns of neural activation for the processing of the phonology of signs and words. For individuals with an L1 (BSL) acquired during the normal period of first language acquisition, and an L2 (English) acquired in childhood, the processing of L1 phonology is easier than processing of L2 phonology. For individuals with delayed acquisition of an L1 (English), and subsequent acquisition of an L2 (BSL) in later childhood or adolescence, higher processing demands are seen for both languages. Independently of knowledge of any sign language, higher processing demands are seen where stimuli contravene phonological rules of a sign language. I will suggest two implications of these findings: that efficient neural processing of phonology relies on the establishment of a phonological system whether for signed or spoken language during an early sensitive period for phonological development, and that the phonological characteristics of a language may arise as a consequence of more efficient neural processing for its perception and production.