Activities and Seminars

Manon Jones, PhD. ‘Surprising Bilinguals’ From lexical and syntactic co-activation to semantic-level distinction
Date: May 04, 2016

What: ‘Surprising Bilinguals’ ~ From lexical and syntactic co-activation to semantic-level distinction

Where: BCBL Auditorium

Who: Manon Jones, PhD. School of Psychology, Bangor University, UK.

When: 11 AM

In this talk, I will present data from two separate streams of research examining language and cognition in the bilingual brain. In the first stream, we examined the case for co-activation of syntax in bilinguals; following previous evidence of spontaneous translation of lexical representations (cf. Thierry & Wu, 2007). Using ERP methods, we show not only that syntactic co-activation occurs, but abstract rules can transfer anomalously from one language to another, even when such rules exist in only one of the bilingual’s languages (Vaughan-Evans, Kuipers, Thierry, & Jones, 2014; Journal of Neuroscience). However, we also show that under more natural reading conditions – using eye-tracking methods – syntactic co-activation occurs, but is only reliably triggered by lexical cues (Vaughan-Evans, Liversedge, Fitzsimmonds, & Jones, under review, JEP:LMC).
In the second stream, we looked at semantic-level representations in bilinguals, focusing on differential access to culturally-relevant information in the first language compared with the second language. In other words, we assessed the influence of language on cognition at a higher level than has been attempted previously (cf. Athanasopoulos et al., 2015). Using ERPs, we show that bilinguals require less processing effort when reading statements relating to the native culture in the native language, even though processing effort is identical for non-culturally relevant statements (Ellis, Kuipers, Thierry, Lovett, Turnbull, & Jones, 2015, Social Cultural and Affective Neuroscience). Bilinguals moreover respond differently in each of their languages when faced with an attack on the native culture.
I will discuss the implications of these findings in terms of their individual contributions, in addition to their overarching message with regards the bilingual brain.