Pomme, manzana, sagarra, or eple... How do multilinguals control and switch between their languages?

Angela de Bruin will discuss language control in multilingual speakers and how they manage competition, word selection, interference and switching between languages. Open lecture. 


Woman, glasses, curly hair, smile
Source: University of York website

All language users have to select which words they want to use: Do I refer to a cute Dalmatian puppy as “dog”, “puppy”, or “Dalmatian”? Multilinguals do not just have words in one language to choose from but can select from multiple languages. Even if only one language is possible in a certain context (for example, when giving this talk in English), words in the other languages might compete for selection. In the first part of this talk, I will discuss how multilinguals manage this competition between languages by applying language control to make sure they select words in the target language, avoid interference from other languages, and switch when needed. I will focus on contexts that require use of one specific language (single-language contexts) and on dual-language contexts that require multilinguals to switch languages in response to cues (for example, the face of a monolingual English-speaking interlocutor requiring you to switch from Norwegian to English). However, while much research has focused on these more “controlled” types of language use, some multilinguals also switch between languages more freely, for example when they are speaking with another multilingual who shares their languages. In the second part of the talk, I will therefore focus on contexts in which bilinguals can use two languages freely. I will discuss (some) factors that influence language choice and will evaluate how language control varies between different types of switching contexts.


Dr Angela de Bruin is a Lecturer (Assistant Professor equivalent) in the Department of Psychology at the University of York (UK). She completed her PhD at the University of Edinburgh (2013-2016) and then worked at the Basque Center on Cognition, Brain and Language as a postdoctoral researcher and Marie Curie fellow (2016-2019). Her main research interests are bilingualism, language production, cognitive ageing, and executive control.

Tags: Cognitive Control, Language Switching, Multilingualism
Published Mar. 16, 2022 5:33 PM - Last modified Apr. 11, 2022 9:10 AM