Thank you for showing interest in my ongoing projects!
Click ‘Learn more’ to read key publications relating to each technique or programme of interest.
Bilingual executive functioning: Is speaking more than one language healthy for your brain?
If you are an active bilingual, you are probably juggling both of your languages on a daily basis. For instance, if you speak English with your partner, you are activating English in your brain and suppressing your other language, French. If you speak French with your co-worker, you must do the opposite: you activate French, and suppress English. This type of back-and-forth activation mechanism is cognitively challenging. For this reason, some researchers theorize that bilinguals may possess executive functioning advantages! (see a review here)
In this programme, we investigate which types of language experiences may result in cognitive advantages (e.g., dominance, code-switching habits, bilingual context, etc.). We asked French-English bilinguals to complete four online executive functioning tasks, and to answer questions about their language background. Spoiler alert: our preliminary results indicated that those who mix their language regularly experience cognitive benefits!
This paper is currently in preparation, but we can’t wait to disseminate the results.
Co-investigator: Dr. Laura Sabourin
Frenglish, Spanglish, Hinglish… Is code-switching cognitively taxing?
Several imminent studies have illustrated that code-switching (i.e., alternating between multiple languages) is more cognitively costly to process than unilingual speech. This conclusion may seem counter-intuitive: if code-switching truly is effortful, why do bilinguals do it in the first place?
In this programme, we compare bilinguals who mix their languages on a daily basis (habitual code-switchers) to those who only seldom do so (non-habitual code-switchers). More often than not, the factor of switching frequency has not been considered in the literature. We suggest that cognitive effort, as indexed by the classical N400 ERP component, will not be present for habitual code-switchers. Our published paper supports this hypothesis. Read it here!
Co-investigator: Dr. Laura Sabourin
How is foreign-accented speech processed?
In this increasingly globalized day-and-age, we often enter into conversations with second-language speakers, who may possess a non-native accent. How is this phonologically-distinct speech signal processed? Do we process it differently from speech that is produced by a native speaker? Are we more likely to overlook mistakes if they are produced by an accented speaker?
This programme examines the processing of foreign-accented speech errors. So far, we have examined semantic foreign-accented errors (e.g., Se escapó el *pelo de tu tía. “Your aunt’s hair escaped.”, where perro “dog” is mispronounced as pelo, “hair”). See our paper here!
We are currently investigating syntactic foreign-accented errors (e.g., Me gusta mucho *la color del cuadro. “I love the colour of the painting.”, where the masculine noun color is preceded by the feminine determiner, la). While our paper is currently in preparation, you can read the parent study here!
Co-investigators: Dr. Clara Martin & Dr. Sendy Caffarra
Bilingualism and the human language faculty
Since the onset of language research, most linguistic theories have been modelled off of the monolingual speaker. However, there are more bi- and multilinguals in the world than there are monolinguals! More and more interdisciplinary experts have begun to entertain the idea that the bilingual mind may be distinct from that of the monolingual, simply by virtue of holding two languages within one single cognitive system (learn more here)!
With the use of code-switched data originating from a publicly available corpus, this project examines the underlying architecture of the bilingual language system. This programme is theoretical in nature. The paper is now available to read here!
Paper supervisor: Dr. Kevin McMullin
Anticipatory grammatical gender cueing
If you are a native speaker of a language that contains grammatical gender (French, Spanish, Arabic, Punjabi, Greek, Russian, Kirundi, the list goes on!), you probably intuitively and implicitly know the gender of a word (e.g., chaise is feminine in French), even if you can’t verbalize why you know. In fact, research shows that you unconsciously use these cues to anticipate upcoming speech when you’re conversing with someone (learn more here)!
What about when you mix you gendered language with a language that doesn’t contain grammatical gender? Do you still use grammatical gender cues?
e.g., la house? le house? le sun? la sun? the maison?
Our line of research examines the manner in which French-English bilinguals use gender cues to predict upcoming nouns within code-switched determiner phrases. This study is currently in the testing phase!
Co-investigators: Gabrielle Manning, Theresa Rabideau & Dr. Tania Zamuner