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Language learning in monolingual and bilingual infants: Evidence from electrophysiological and optical signals

Objective

Bilingual infants have to deal with two languages at the same time. Some previous studies showed delayed processing in bilinguals due to the higher cognitive load they are faced with. However, other studies show that they master this challenging task with a fascinating ease and at the same pace as monolingual infants. In order to get clearer insights into language learning processing mechanisms in mono- and bilingual infants we will adopt a statistical learning paradigm in which 6 and 18 month old infants listen to phonotactically legal and illegal pseudowords presented in combination with different pseudoobjects. Phonotactics is a prelexical cue relevant for segmentation and lexical access and thus playing a crucial role during word learning. Legal phonotactic rules will correspond to German, whereas illegal rules will correspond to the Slovak language. Monolingual infants will have German as their native language and bilingual infants will be confronted from birth with German and Italian. Thus, the experimental material reflects processing of the native language compared to a foreign language rule. In order to be able to differentiate fine-grained language learning mechanisms we will adopt simultaneously two neuroscientific methods: the electroencephalography (EEG) and the functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). The former allows an exquisite temporal resolution aiming at identifying temporal characteristics of fast processing mechanisms and the latter will focus on topographic issues, especially on lateralization. The research questions of the present study focus on whether bilinguals are more flexible learners than monolinguals providing superior learning abilities with respect to a new language or whether a word-object associative learning context provides a more laborious learning setting and thus leading to delayed and differential processing mechanisms, both on a temporal level as well as with respect to recruitment of differential brain areas.

Field of science

  • /humanities/languages and literature/general language studies

Call for proposal

FP7-PEOPLE-2011-IEF
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Funding Scheme

MC-IEF - Intra-European Fellowships (IEF)

Coordinator

MEDIZINISCHE UNIVERSITAT INNSBRUCK
Address
Christoph Probst Platz 1
6020 Innsbruck
Austria
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 180 191,40
Administrative Contact
Wolfram Rieneck (Dr.)