Primary Investigator: Matthew Carlson
Postdoc: Eric Pelzl
While bilinguals can reliably use one language at a time when needed, it is clear that their two languages cannot be thought of as separate and independent systems coexisting in one mind, but rather a single “compound” system. We seek to understand what this means by exploring how the sound systems and lexicons of languages interact in the bilingual mind. At the phonological level we are currently exploring how multiple sound systems influence bilinguals’ speech perception and production. For example, restrictions on possible sequences of sounds in one language can lead hearers to perceive an illicit sequence as if it had been repaired. We ask how knowing a different language, with different restrictions, influences the perceptual illusion depending on bilinguals’ knowledge of and reliance on both languages, and on real-time linguistic conditions. At the lexical level, we are interested in how bilinguals and second language learners process morphologically complex words. In monolinguals’ lexical processing the salience of morphological structure depends on a variety of factors. We use eye-tracking and behavioral methods to understand how differences in bilinguals’ sensitivity to these factors, and factors unique to bilingualism (e.g. cognate affixes), impacts their processing of known and novel complex words.