Plenary speakers

Anna B. Cieślicka
Texas A&M International University / Adam Mickiewicz University

Jean-Marc Dewaele

University of London

Alex Housen

University of Brussels (VUB)

Guillaume Thierry

Bangor University



Anna B. Cieślicka
Beyond a reasonable doubt? : The multidetermined nature of lexical ambiguity resolution in the bilingual mind

Understanding and producing language involves resolving ambiguity inherent at both the word (e.g., bank in the sense of a “river” vs. a “financial institution”) and sentence levels (e.g., kick the bucket= “die” vs. “strike a pail with one’s foot”).  For a second/foreign (L2) language learner or a bilingual fluent in both languages, this task is additionally complicated by the presence of two (or more) competing language systems. The purpose of this talk is to address the question of how bilingual language users resolve lexical ambiguity arising in the course of processing their nonnative (L2) language and what factors have emerged as crucial in determining this process. To this end, I will review a number of studies conducted in the domain of interlingual homographs, or words with different meanings exhibiting an orthographic overlap between languages (e.g., taller as in “height” or as in “shop” in Spanish), cognates (words whose meaning and orthographic representations overlap between languages), and idioms. In a series of behavioral studies exploring the processing of homographs and cognates by fluent Spanish-English bilinguals (Cieślicka, García, and Heredia, in preparation), context emerged as a major factor modulating cognate and homograph comprehension. Like ambiguous words, idioms pose a challenge for the language comprehension system, as they offer two competing plausible interpretations and so they can shed important light on the issue of the mechanisms underlying lexical ambiguity resolution. I will review a number of studies employing different behavioral methodologies, such as cross-modal priming, self-paced reading, and divided visual field technique (Cieślicka & Heredia, 2011, Cieślicka, under review), which have explored ambiguity resolution during L2 idiom processing by Polish proficient learners of English and I will discuss the factors that have been shown to affect this process, such as context, salience, idiom predictability, or idiom compositionality.

Jean-Marc Dewaele
Communicating emotions in multiple languages

In this lecture I will consider the recent wave of research into emotion and multilingualism (Caldwell-Harris & Ayçiçeği -Dinn, 2009; Pavlenko, 2005, 2008). Cognitive psychologists, psychotherapists and applied linguists use different methodologies in order to answer common research questions: Are some languages of multilinguals perceived to be more emotional? What are the consequences for their use in various contexts? What is the status and nature of emotion words and emotion-laden words in the bilingual lexicon? Why do swearwords feel less offensive in a foreign language? I will also consider the role of foreign language instruction on the communication of emotion in the foreign language.

Caldwell-Harris, C.L. & Ayçiçeği -Dinn, A. (2009) Emotion and lying in a non-native language. International Journal of Psychophysiology 71, 193-204.
Dewaele, J.-M. (2008) The emotional weight of ‘I love you’ in multilinguals’ languages. Journal of Pragmatics, 40, 1753–1780.
- (2010a) Emotions in Multiple Languages. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
- (2010b) ‘Christ fucking shit merde!’ Language preferences for swearing among maximally proficient multilinguals. Sociolinguistic Studies 4, 595-614.
- (2011) Reflections on the emotional and psychological aspects of foreign language learning and use. Anglistik 22, 23-42.
Eilola, T.M. & Havelka, J. (2011) Behavioural and physiological responses to the emotional and taboo Stroop tasks in native and non-native speakers of English. International Journal of Bilingualism 15, 353-369.
Pavlenko, A. (2005) Emotions and Multilingualism. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.
Pavlenko, A. (2008) Emotion and emotion-laden words in the bilingual lexicon. Bilingualism:  Language and Cognition 11, 147-164.

Alex Housen
Not quite so simple – Complexity in L2 Research

In this talk I will illustrate and critically discuss how the notion of complexity (along with related notions such as simplicity and difficulty) has been used in L2 studies. Although now a fixture in contemporary science (Mitchel 2009), including the language sciences (Sampson, Gil & Trudgill 2009; Dahl 2004), I will demonstrate several problems in terms of how complexity has been defined and operationalised as a construct in L2 research. As one step towards a more explicit definition of L2 complexity, and drawing extensively on previous studies and speculation, I will first try to unravel its multi-facetted nature by presenting a taxonomic model that identifies major types, dimensions, components and layers of L2 complexity, each of which can, and perhaps should, be independently investigated (Bulte & Housen 2012). In a second part, I evaluate how complexity has actually been operationalised in empirical L2 studies by inventorizing the complexity measures that have been used and by evaluating the construct validity and underlying logic of some popular linguistic complexity measures.  I conclude by arguing for the development of more theoretically grounded, empirically substantiable and practically feasible criteria and measurement practices of complexity as a multi-dimensional phenomenon. This constitutes a major task for future research on L2 complexity as a structuring factor or as a basic descriptor of L2 performance, L2 proficiency and L2 development.   

Bulté, B.  & Housen, A. 2012. "Defining and Operationalising L2 Complexity". In: Housen, Kuiken & Vedder (eds.), Dimensions of L2 Performance and Proficiency - Investigating Complexity, Accuracy and Fluency in SLA. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Dahl, Ö. 2004. The Growth and Maintenance of Linguistic Complexity. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Mitchell, M. 2009. Complexity – A Guided Tour. Oxford: OUP.
Sampson, G., Gil, D.  & Trudgill, P. (eds). 2009.  Language Complexity as an Evolving Variable.  OUP.

Guillaume Thierry
An electrifying approach to language and bilingualism: Event-related brain potentials

In this talk I will explain how electrical activity recorded from the human scalp can shed light onto the cognitive mechanisms underlying language processing. I will provide examples regarding lexical access and syntactic processing in bilinguals during language comprehension and production and I will present evidence for linguistic relativity at a perceptual level. Pulling these examples together, I will propose that event-related brain potentials are the closest thing to mind reading available to date.