Large numbers of people are bilingual in the US and the world. How are words in the two languages represented and processed in their minds? Do they treat parts of words similarly in the two languages? Does it pose any special challenges? This National Science Foundation funded workshop brings together multidisciplinary researchers to discuss recent findings about how bilingual speakers learn, process and represent the internal structure of words.
The study of bilingual morphology presents unique insights into the representation and processing of complex words in the mind, how the representation of those words interact with each other, and how they are put together to form sentences. Researchers have proposed different possible ways in which morphology (the inner structure of words) works. Bilingual speakers provide a fertile testing ground for these different models, because bilingual speaker deal with languages with potentially very different ways of constructing words. Additionally, many studies suggest that morphology plays an important role in explaining why people learning a second language don’t always have the same degree of success.
From an applied perspective, the study of morphology has important implications for clinical and
educational professionals. For example, many of the clinical tools developed to assess children’s speech development rely on how well they are able to parse the internal structure of words. At the same time, normal bilingual development has shown similar patterns to atypical monolingual patterns, leading to inadequate over- or under-diagnosing of language development difficulties among bilinguals. For this reason, it is essential to establish a baseline for bilingual children with typical acquisition of morphologically in order for clinicians to be able to distinguish them from bilingual or monolingual children with symptoms of language disorders. This is particularly important because English language learners are at higher risk than other children for educational underperformance, making the accurate diagnosis of language impairments in this group essential for their educational prospects.
Twelve invited presenters will set the scene for a discussion about what the mind of bilingual speakers tells us regarding the representation of human languages in our mind. Participants will assess the larger social repercussions of this emerging field for a society with increasing levels of bilingualism, specifically for accurately diagnosing speech problems, and for the design of educational curricula.