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Understanding the bilingual individual: Extending Einar Haugen's work

The 2016 Einar Haugen Lecture will be given by a renowned researcher in the field of bilingualism, François Grosjean. Among his many pioneering contributions is his view that bilinguals are not two monolinguals in one person but rather human communicators in their own right. In this lecture, he will discuss the bilingualism of adults and children, the importance of understanding biculturalism, and family strategies and support in the upbringing of bilingual children.

François Grosjean

François Grosjean (Photo:


In 1980, reflecting on the beginning of his career as a foremost researcher on bilingualism, Einar Haugen wrote, "The subject .... was grossly neglected.... and without realizing it, I stood at the beginning of what has since become a flood of writings....".

In this lecture, the speaker describes how his own research on the bilingual individual ­­– adult and child – was influenced by the scholarly work of this inspiring researcher he discovered for the first time in the 1960s in Paris, and by the regular meetings he had with him when he moved to the United States.

Einar Haugen's impact has touched on many topics studied by the speaker such as how one defines and describes bilingualism; how bilinguals acquire and use their languages for different purposes, in different domains, with different people; the linguistic and psycholinguistic differences between interferences, borrowings and code-switches; the effects of bilingualism and the importance of biculturalism; and, finally, family strategies and support in the upbringing of bilingual children.

The speaker's own holistic view of bilingualism which he first developed in the 1980s, and which he talked about with Einar Haugen, was in part influenced by the latter's research on Norwegian-American bilinguals in the United States.

The lecture will end with reminiscences of Einar Haugen as a mentor and a friend who took real interest in the speaker's experimental work­ – so different from his own academic approach to the study of language contact – and with whom he corresponded for several years when they were once again living in separate countries.

François Grosjean

François Grosjean is Emeritus Professor of Psycholinguistics, Neuchâtel University, Switzerland. His domains of interest are the perception, comprehension and production of language, be it speech or sign language, in monolinguals and bilinguals. He also has interests in biculturalism, applied linguistics, aphasia, sign language, and natural language processing.

He is better known for his work on bilingualism in which he has investigated the holistic view of bilingualism, language mode, the complementarity principle, the processing of code-switching and borrowing, as well as the bilingualism of the Deaf.

He is the author of numerous articles and of eleven books, among them Life with Two Languages: An Introduction to Bilingualism (Harvard University Press, 1982), Studying Bilinguals (Oxford University Press, 2008), Bilingual: Life and Reality (Harvard University Press, 2010) and The Psycholinguistics of Bilingualism (with Ping Li; Wiley Blackwell, 2012).

He is a cofounder of Bilingualism: Language and Cognition (Cambridge University Press) and he also has a successful blog with Aneta Pavlenko, Life as a bilingual, hosted by Psychology Today

Published June 23, 2016 8:43 PM - Last modified Nov. 7, 2017 1:50 PM