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SEMINAR: Linguistics Seminar Series

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Today's date is Saturday, August 15, 2020
Linguistics Seminar Series : Facilitated but Avoided: Why bilinguals shun the easiest words Other events...
There is substantial evidence that doppels - words in two or more languages sharing similar forms and meanings, such as English fish and German Fisch - are produced by bilinguals more quickly and easily than non-doppels like English duck and German Ente. Ellison & Miceli (2017) recently argued, however, that doppels are avoided by bilinguals, and that this avoidance can lead to significant lexical change in languages over time. We proposed that while associative memory favours doppels, because of the similar form-meaning connections in multiple linguistic contexts, a subsequent monitoring process results in language-ambiguous doppels being resisted. This avoidance of doppels has been evidenced in experimental work on Dutch-English bilinguals.

The question remains, however, why the psycholinguistic literature to date describes only facilitation of doppels, and not their avoidance. We show that the experimental task chiefly used to examine doppel production, namely picture naming, has standardly been constructed so that only a single response is correct. Consequently, there can never be a competition between alternative expressions of a meaning, and thus doppels cannot be avoided. In this talk, we present a replication of an earlier picture-naming study (Christoffels 2007), but extend it to new conditions where the participants can choose between alternative names for the picture. In these cases, we do indeed find evidence of bilinguals avoiding the shared vocabulary.

We argue therefore, that while the anti-doppel bias has always been there, it was for a long time unnoticed experimentally because standard picture-naming methodology could not detect it.

Linguistics has long described two forces as continually shaping language: ease of articulation and distinctiveness. Where doppels gain in ease of articulation because of their cross-linguistic frequency advantage, they pay a price for failing to distinctively mark the language being spoken.
Speaker(s) Mark Ellison and Luisa Miceli
Location Social Sciences Building, Room 2.63
Contact Maia Ponsonnet <[email protected]>
Start Fri, 15 Mar 2019 11:00
End Fri, 15 Mar 2019 12:30
Submitted by Karen Eichorn <[email protected]>
Last Updated Wed, 13 Mar 2019 13:09
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