AThEME and the University of Edinburgh

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Summary of work so far

Work at the University of Edinburgh is following three lines of research:

  • the reciprocal interactions between grammar and attention in bilingual speakers.
  • the effects of using two languages during development, and in particular the impact of a dominant language such as English, on a minority one, such as Scottish Gaelic.
  • how bilingualism modulates the way we encode and communicate concepts in both language and thought.

We are investigating how bilinguals represent syntactic (grammatical) constructions and the extent to which these representations may overlap across languages. A bilingual speaker has to store grammatical rules and constructions for two languages and evidence suggests that these language systems may interact.

Our 1st study looked at how adolescent Gaelic-English bilinguals store and connect representations of passive constructions (for example, “the hotel was robbed” or “the dog was bitten by the flea”) from both their languages. Our results suggest that bilinguals form connections between these constructions, but that the extent to which they share a representation depends on their proficiency and language exposure. This suggests that the more proficient bilinguals become, the more economical they are in their storage of syntactic representations. This study will be presented as a poster at the upcoming AMLaP conference in Malta, September 2015.

We are currently planning our next study which will investigate how children, educated through the Gaelic-medium education system, acquire and represent complex syntactic constructions. We also plan to investigate the impact of the dominant language, English, on the Gaelic language during development.

Researchers are currently recruiting bilingual participants for AThEME research – languages other than Gaelic are also welcome to take part in this study Find out more

AThEME-related outputs and publications

This section will be updated as the project progresses

AThEME researchers at University of Edinburgh

Professor Antonella Sorace

Professor of Developmental Linguistics;

Antonella Sorace is Professor in Developmental Linguistics in the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences at the University of Edinburgh.

Research interests - cognitive aspects of language in a wide range of domains, including morphosyntactic development in child and adult monolingual and bilingual speakers, the reciprocal effects of bilingualism and general cognition, and gradience at the lexicon-syntax interface in natural language.

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Professor Antonella Sorace

Professor Antonella Sorace

Professor of Developmental Linguistics;

Professor Holly Branigan

Professor of Psychology of Language

Holly Branigan is Professor of Psychology of Language in the school of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences at the University of Edinburgh.

Research interests - language production; dialogue; language development; bilingualism.

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Professor Holly Branigan

Professor Holly Branigan

Professor of Psychology of Language

Professor Caroline Heycock

Professor of Linguistics

Caroline Heycock is professor of Syntax in the School of Philosophy, Psychology and language Sciences at the University of Edinburgh.

Research interests - theoretical syntax, with particular reference to English and the other Germanic languages, and to Japanese. Recent and current research topics include reconstruction phenomena, equatives and other copular constructions, particularly pseudoclefts, the syntax and semantics of (especially) nominal conjunction, and syntactic attrition in the native language of advanced learners of a second language.

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Professor Caroline Heycock

Professor Caroline Heycock

Professor of Linguistics

Professor Martin Pickering

Professor of Psychology of Language

Martin Pickering is professor of Psychology of Language at the University of Edinburgh.

Research interests - Psychology of language and communication, including language production, language comprehension, dialogue, and bilingualism, with a focus on syntax and semantics.

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Professor Martin Pickering

Professor Martin Pickering

Professor of Psychology of Language

Ellise Suffill

PhD Candidate in Psychology

Ellise Suffill is an AThEME-funded PhD candidate in Psychology at the University of Edinburgh.

Research interests - the effects of conceptual representations across cognition, including how bilingual knowledge may change semantic concepts within the individual; how the presence of labels can affect alignment in semantic categorisation tasks during dialogue.

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Ellise Suffill

Ellise Suffill

PhD Candidate in Psychology

Timea Kutasi

Research Assistant, AThEME Project

I am a research assistant in psychology, psycholinguistics and sociolinguistics on the AThEME project at the University of Edinburgh, and also at Heriot-Watt University (on Gaelic-English bilingualism). I investigate: how bilingualism affects our cognitive functions; whether being bilingual leads to a single, shared representation of similar linguistic structures in our minds; how speakers of minority languages perceive themselves and other speakers of the same language and how they use their minority language; and how people adapt their language behaviour when they interact with a monolingual vs. bilingual speaker.

I am also interested in how linguistic and cognitive skills evolve over time and in later life, both in healthy populations and in populations with developmental or acquired language and communication disorders.

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Timea Kutasi

Timea Kutasi

Research Assistant, AThEME Project

Michela Bonfieni

PhD student in Linguistics, AThEME Project

Michela studies the cognitive and linguistic effects of bilingualism in different multilingual populations. Her research is part of the AThEME Project. As a volunteer for Bilingualism Matters, she writes blogposts and scientific digests, and displays her research at science dissemination events.

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Michela Bonfieni

Michela Bonfieni

PhD student in Linguistics, AThEME Project

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