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What bilinguals tell us about language and the mind

Dr. Judith Kroll

Tuesday, March 10, 2009, 01:00pm - 02:00pm

Department of Psychology, Pennsylvania State University

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Until recently, research on language and its cognitive interface focused almost exclusively on monolingual speakers of a single language and typically speakers of English as the native language. In the past decade, the recognition that more of the world's speakers are bilingual than monolingual has led to a dramatic increase in research that assumes bilingualism as the norm rather than the exception. This new research investigates the way in which bilinguals negotiate the presence of two languages in a single mind and brain. A critical insight is that bilingualism provides a tool for examining aspects of the cognitive architecture that are otherwise obscured by the skill associated with native language performance. From this perspective, bilinguals are model subjects of study for cognitive scientists and cognitive neuroscientists who wish to identify constraints and plasticity in learning and the way in which competition is resolved across cognitive systems. In this talk, I overview this approach to language processing and consider the consequences that bilingualism holds for cognition more generally.

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Dr. Judith Kroll