School of Languages, Linguistics and Film

LingLunch | Phaedra Royle (UdeM) and Karsten Steinhauer (McGill)

12 September 2018

Time: 2:00 - 4:30pm
Venue: Bancroft G07

We currently have two British Academy Visiting Fellows at QMUL: Professor Phaedra Royle from Université de Montréal and Professor Karsten Steinhauer from McGill University. As part of their visits, they will be giving talks about their research. Details below.


14:00 - Karsten Steinhauer

How plastic is the adult brain for language processing? – ERP signatures of L2 acquisition and L1 attrition

Since the early 2000s, research on second language (L2) acquisition has been controversial as to how plastic the human brain is after puberty. Recent studies have extended this debate to first language (L1) loss: Does loss of brain plasticity after a critical period in childhood prevent late L2 learners from achieving native-like language proficiency while at the same time protecting them from losing their L1?  My paper gives an overview of both these aspects, with a particular focus on L1 attrition. After providing recent event-related brain potential (ERP) evidence questioning the notion of a critical period in L2 acquisition, I will present data from the first large-scale ERP studies on L1 attrition and discuss their implications for our understanding of the bilingual brain. Where ERP data patterns seem inconsistent across studies from different labs, I will discuss potential underlying reasons.


15:00 - Phaedra Royle

Verb inflection patterns in French child monolinguals, multilinguals and immigrant adults. Beyond dual route models.

French verbs typically fall into three conjugation groups and show four inflection patterns in their past participle forms (-é /e/, -i /i/, -u /y/ or idiosyncratic forms), which are used in the passé composé (perfect past), the most common past tense form in the language. Because these forms, contrary to English, show graded patterns of regularity and productivity, or even reliability (Albright 2002), they are an interesting and more fine-grained case for the study of regular-irregular distinctions in language acquisition.

We investigated whether children and adults, French monolinguals or multilinguals as well as children with developmental language impairment (DLI) are sensitive to these patterns. We hypothesized that multilingual participants would produce less frequent or less reliable patterns with more difficulty due to less exposure to the language (Nicoladis, Palmer, and Marentette 2007). We also investigated whether socioeconomic factors and parental education affected child language acquisition of these patterns.

Globally we observed that multilingual and monolingual adults and children master verb groups in the same manner, with some interesting differences in the child groups only. Parental education impacts subtly on inflection mastery, and exposure to French at home impacts on response strategies used by children. Inflection types show graded patterns before age 6 but seem to be equally mastered from then on, excepting idiosyncratic forms. On the other hand, children with DLI show no sensitivity to inflection type and thus do not seem to be sensitive to this type of morphological structure. We conclude that, even though multilingual children and adults have less exposure to French, all neurotypical speakers show strengths on default patterns and sensitivity to sub-regular verbs.