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Psycholinguistics. Universität des Saarlandes Dept. 4.3: English Linguistics SS 2009. Lecture: Psycholinguistics Professor Dr. Neal R. Norrick _____________________________________. 7.4 Two languages in one brain 7.4.1 Types of bilinguals Weinreich (1953) distinguished three kinds of

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Lecture psycholinguistics professor dr neal r norrick


Universität des Saarlandes

Dept. 4.3: English Linguistics

SS 2009

Lecture: Psycholinguistics Professor Dr. Neal R. Norrick_____________________________________

7.4 Two languages in one brain

7.4.1 Types of bilinguals

Weinreich (1953) distinguished three kinds of


A. Coordinate: L1 and L2 acquired

in separate contexts

  • each system is complete in itself

  • person functions as monolingual in both communities

  • B. Compound: L1 and L2 acquired in same context

    • the two systems are merged

    • person doesn't function as monolingual in

    • either community

    • person may experience interference from

    • L1 to L2 and from L2 to L1

C. Subordinate: L2 acquired based on L1

  • only one system

  • person functions as monolingual only in L1

  • person experiences interference only from

    L1 to L2

Notice that Weinreich’s typology works only at the lexical level, but bilinguals may experience interference at all levels from phonetics up to semantics.

  • 7.4.2 Bilingual meaning systems

  • According to Macnamara (1970):

  • subordinate bilinguals function appropriately in L1,

  • but inappropriately L2

  • compound bilinguals function inappropriately in

  • both languages

  • though coordinate bilinguals function appropriately

  • in L1 & L2 they must experience confusion in their

  • internal thought

But this assumes that word meaning and natural language semantics correspond directly to mental concepts.

By contrast, Paradis (1979, 1985) argues that both

language systems are connected to a conceptual-

experiential level of cognition

  • In fact, the situation is probably a mixture of these two positions:

  • WATs and other tests show concrete concepts like

  • tree and tableseem to be shared, as in ‘compound’

  • diagram B above

  • but abstract concepts like freedom and justiceare

  • language-specific, as in ‘coordinate’ diagram A

  • above

words identical in meaning and similar in form seem to share a single ‘lexical entry’

die Karotte carrot la carotte

die Adresse address l'address

but the systematic semantics of the individual languages may still differ, thus German has rough synonyms

Karotte Mohrrübe

Adresse Anschrift

  • probably semantic systems overlap with some a single ‘lexical entry’

  • areas shared and others distinct, e.g.

  • English ball spheric, bouncy, for play

  • French balle spheric, bouncy, for play, small

  • given French ballon for larger, inflatable

    spheres, while these features are irrelevant for

    English ball

7.4.3 Bilingual phonology and syntax a single ‘lexical entry’

Extended system hypothesis:

phonemes of L2 are processed as allophones of

L1 phonemes

Dual system hypothesis:

separate phonemic systems for L1 & L2

Tripartite system hypothesis:

shared phonemes in one system with separate

phonemes in separate systems

Stop consonants p t k, b d g could be shared in a single ‘lexical entry’

bilingual German-English system

but English fricatives in then and thin, and German

fricatives in ich and ach must occur in separate



  • syntactic structures of L2 could be processed in

    accordance with L1 syntax

  • L1 & L2 could have separate syntactic systems

7.4.4 Language processing in the bilingual brain structures would require separate processing

Depending how they're acquired, L1 & L2 may even

be lateralized differently in brain:

  • L2 lateralized in right hemisphere

  • L2 less lateralized than L1

  • L1 & L2 both less lateralized than in monolinguals

    evidence from aphasia indicates that languages are

    separately organized in brain, but not necessary

    lateralized separately

As Paradis (1979, 1985) shows, bilinguals comes in structures would require separate processing

many types;

Bilinguals may differ with regard to:

  • manner of acquisition (formal, informal)

  • mode of acquisition (oral, written)

  • method of acquisition

    (deductive, inductive, analytic, global)

  • age of acquisition (during or after critical period)

  • stage of acquisition

  • degree of proficiency

  • frequency and modes of use structures would require separate processing

  • language-specific features of L1 & L2

  • sharing features and rules at various levels

    on every linguistic level, structures might be

    shared or separate

    e.g. if L1 speaker produces L2 perfectly, except for

    phonetics, i.e. has lots of interference from L1 to L2

    at the level of phonetics, we could model the

    situation as follows:

L structures would require separate processing1 L2

conceptual level single system

semantics x -- y

syntax x -- y

morphology x -- y

lexis x -- y

phonology x -- y

and if L structures would require separate processing1 speaker produces phonetically correct L2,

but makes lots of interference errors in grammar

and word choice, we could model the situation as


L1 L2

conceptual level single system

semantics x -- y

syntax x -- y

morphology x -- y

lexis x -- y

phonology x -- y

Of course, some languages may naturally share structures would require separate processing

structures at certain levels:

English-German bilinguals probably have a single

set of stop consonants for both languages,

but German speakers need to add the fricatives in

then and thin,

and English speakers need to add the fricatives in ich and ach and so on

In the simplest model, the concepts of experience run through a set of pipes and come out as either L1 or L2

(in the model Spanish and English)

The next model ignores the concepts and begins with separate tanks for the words of L1 & L2;

again pipes run down, and one language

spills out.

(This second model corresponds to Weinreich’s “coordinate bilingual”)

In third model, the concepts of experience run through pipes representing L1 & L2, they are assigned appropriate words from either L1 or L2, and they flow into another set of pipes, representing the grammar and phonology, and finally flow out as either L1 or L2.

But, as in Weinreich, there’s no way in these models representing L

to account for interference

Since there's interference between the systems,

some pipes may be playing a role in both L1 & L2

systems, and the pipes must be leaky; since we can

code-switch and translate, there must be leakage in

both directions

  • It’s probably necessary to complicate the third


The tanks of words from L representing L1 or L2, need valves to turn

them on or shut them off, representing the decision to

speak either L1 or L2 and block out the other

As we saw above, the words must flow into separate

sets of pipes, representing the grammar, morphology

and phonology of either L1 or L2 as well; but some

pipes serve both L1 & L2 systems to some extent,

to account for interference

At all levels, we must allow leakage to explain how

we can code-switch from L1 to L2

also possible: representing L

comprehension is a single system for L1 & L2,

while production of L1 & L2 remains separate, because:

  • comprehension precedes production in acquisition

  • comprehension more advanced than production at

    all stages

  • though we can choose not to speak L1 or L2,

    we can't choose not to comprehend

  • production is lost before comprehension in aphasia

  • comprehension returns before production in aphasia

again according to Paradis, we can envision: representing L

  • single coherent underlying conceptual system

  • two cognitively separate systems - with some

    shared areas in semantics, syntax, phonology

    one system is suppressed due to context, frequency

    of contact etc

    but word/phrase from suppressed system may intrude,

    especially during word search

    there may be differences in processing due to

    acquisition history, strategies etc

8. Language comprehension representing L

 means understanding what we hear and read

comprehension as active search for coherence and

sense based on expectations arising from context,

not a passive item-by-item recording and analysis of

words in a linear sequence.

meaning and real-world expectations play a more representing L

important role than grammar

top-down versus bottom-up processing

Until the age of four, kids interpret a-d the same way;

even adults require longer to respond to c, d:

a. The cat chased the mouse.

b. The mouse was chased by the cat.

c. The mouse chased the cat.

d. The cat was chased by the mouse.

Asked to paraphrase e-g in their own words, subjects representing L

‘normalized’ the sentences 60% of the time:

e. John dressed and had a bath.f. John finished and wrote the article on the

weekend.g. Don't print that or I won't sue you.

Asked if they saw any difference between g and their representing L

‘incorrect’ paraphrase h, 53% still said no

h. If you print that, I'll sue you.

  • clearly, the ‘Reality Principle’ guides our

    comprehension of linguistic structures

8.1 Comprehension of sounds representing L

How can we identify sounds and words when

sounds vary?

How to wreck a nice beach =

How to recognize speech

Notice positional variants

Consider necessity of top-down interpretation

Phoneme restoration effect representing L

a. It was found that the -eel was on the axle.  wheel

b. It was found that the -eel was on the shoe.  heel

c. It was found that the -eel was on the orange.  peel

d. It was found that the -eel was on the table.  meal

We hear progressively different allophones of a single phoneme as the same:

spread p in peel versus puckered p in pool versus unaspirated p in speed or spool

but we hear separate phonemes as distinct although they also occupy points along a single continuum

pie and buy differ only in the initial consonant

we attend only to difference in phoneme as the same:

Voicing Onset Time (VOT)

VOT for pie about 50 milliseconds later than for buy

even sounds halfway between p and b in VOT are heard as one or the other rather than as a combination of the two

  • this phoneme as the same: categorial perception of sounds is a distinctly

    human trait

  • sometimes cited as evidence of innate language ability

  • but differences between fricatives like fa tha sa sha are perceived continuously on basis of aperiodic noise

8.2 Comprehension of words phoneme as the same:

Parallel Distributed Processing (PDP):

separate, simultaneous and parallel processes work

to identify words

by pronunciation: to recognize homophones phoneme as the same:

leadN and ledV pst

by spelling: to recognize homographs

windN and windV

by grammar: to recognize smell as noun or verb

while hear can only function as verb

by semantics: synonyms like little and small

antonyms like little and big

hyponyms like car versus vehicle etc

PDP can link word meanings to perceptual and phoneme as the same:

functional paradigms (how a thing looks, sounds etc,

what it's used for)

consider Tip-of-the-tongue (TOT) phenomena

you're trying to recall the word for the belief that life's

events are preordained by a deity

you remember that the word begins with p, then that

word begins with pre-, and that it ends with -tion

Bathtub Effect: phoneme as the same: recall is best for beginnings and

ends of words, like the head and feet of a person

which are visible though the middle remains

submerged in the tub

you recall associated words like:

predilection pretension

Presbyterian preordained

you finally come up with: predestination

Spreading activation networks: phoneme as the same: as the search

progresses, more words and concepts are accessed

related in various ways,

including schematic knowledge

e.g. the association of Presbyterian

and predestination via 'religion‘

Both comprehension and production of both speech

and writing require accessing the mental lexicon.

Garman (1990: 249) diagrams input-output relations

as following: