Maria Garraffa - Bilingualism and minority languages: integrating context of use with linguistic variables.

Maria Garraffa is Assistant Professor at Heriot- Watt University (Edinburgh) where she teaches and does research on Language Acquisition and impairment. In collaboration with leading scholars, some of her key achievements include the development of the first UK psychological test to assess reading in adults with language disorders and a model to investigate vulnerable aspects of language in children with language impairment and adults suffering from stroke. Developed in parallel with a core interest for language impairment, her research on multilingualism addresses the effects of early second language learning in immigrants and people speaking heritage languages. She is the director of the Language Across the Life Span lab, based in Edinburgh and Malaysia (

She was Research fellow at University of Siena, Milano Bicocca, Newcastle University and Edinburgh University.

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Bilingualism and minority languages: integrating context of use with linguistic variables.

The language experience of children and adults growing up with minority languages is subject to considerable variation, both in terms of input quantity and quality. Speakers acquiring a minority language are exposed to less variety of input, growing up in a smaller linguistic community and with fewer occasions to use the language in everyday life. Despite this poverty of input, most speakers are successfully learning the language and exhibit similar language acquisition in the dominant language as monolinguals.

In this talk I will discuss recent data coming from an investigation of language and cognitive skills in Sardinian/Italian children and adults and Gaelic/English young adults, presenting evidence from speakers with different language experiences. It will be discussed in detail how syntactic structures could guide the investigation of cognitive functions, as in the case of an exclusive oral-language acquisition, and the effect of syntactic structures on verbal working memory and on syntactic processing.

Published Jan. 6, 2020 4:25 PM - Last modified Jan. 6, 2020 4:27 PM