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AThEME project newsletter


Winter 2015

Welcome

to our third newsletter, and thank you for your interest in AThEME

From 2014 to 2019, the AThEME researchers will work together using a range of techniques - from interviews to measuring brain activity - to investigate what happens when someone speaks more than one language. You can read about the work that is already underway in the Research news section.

Dissemination is a crucial part of AThEME - we want to make sure that our findings make real differences in people's lives. To help make sure that people know about 
AThEME, branches of the public engagement initiative "Bilingualism Matters" have been set up in each participating country. You can find out more about the different branches and their activities in the Dissemination news section.

You'll find a list of major Upcoming Events for various audiences, but remember to check with your local branch of Bilingualism Matters for any other events they may be organizing. 

Finally, in each newsletter, we'll be including a short interview with an AThEME researcher from one of the eight participating countries. In our third Meet the Researcher section, we speak to Dr. Khalid Mourigh from the Netherlands.


Best Wishes, 

The AThEME dissemination team

Image of Dr Verrips

              Image of Prof Sorace     
  Dr Maaike Verrips                 Prof Antonella Sorace

Image of Dr Beveridge                

  Dr Madeleine Beveridge    Anna de Graaf, MA
 

Research news


There are four AThEME research groups, each tackling different types of questions. Find out more about what each group has been up to over the past six months.
Regional Languages in Multilingual Europe

The EU recognises over 60 regional languages, and up to 40 million speakers of those languages across the EU. Regional languages are therefore a key element of multilingualism in Europe.

The Universities of Verona and Trento are working together in researching regional language contact in the area of Bassa Atesina. Specific attention is given to the mutual influence of the local Germanic and Romance languages. Right now they are working on a user-friendly website, which they will use to collect recorded translations provided by speakers of local language varieties, who are willing to help out in this research.

The members of the Verona-Trento team have also presented their work at several conferences in different countries. The topics of the presentations varied from “Microvariation and Typological properties” (Birgit Alber), “The role of contact on endangered languages. A case in Northern Italy” (Ermenegildo Bidese, Jan Casalicchio, Patrizia Cordin), and “Different strategies to circumvent the ‘that-trace effect" (Alessandra Tomaselli – Gildo Bidese)  to “On the left periphery of relaxed V2 languages: A comparison between Rhaetoromance and Mòcheno” (Jan Casalicchio - Federica Cognola). 


In Spain, Ricardo Etxepare from IKER (Le Centre de recherche sur la langue et les textes basques) has started collaboration with the research group CLT (Centre de Lingüística Teorica, Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona). This project should lead to the creation of a (mostly) Iberian Spanish syntactic atlas. The project is funded by the Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad of the Spanish Government.    

Moreover, together with the Department of Basque Philology of the University of the Basque Country, IKER organized an International Meeting entitled “Basque varieties and dialects” as part of the XXXIVth Edition of the Summer Courses of the University of the Basque Country, in the Palacio Miramar, San Sebastian-Donostia on June 1st 2015.

In the mean-time, Irantzu Epelde, a postdoctoral researcher from IKER, has carried out important fieldwork on the Basque varieties spoken on the Spanish-French border with 20 speakers of Basque between 40 and 30 years old, These data will be compared with data from older, more traditional speakers. Together, the collected data will allow us to observe the impact of certain sociolinguistic variables, such as the effect of the standard on the possible convergence of dialectal Basque, and the opposite effect of the majority languages (Spanish and French) in the speech of younger generations.
 

In the Netherlands, Myrthe Bergstra, PhD student at Utrecht University, has investigated changes in Frisian by means of questionnaires. She found that the verbs "go" and "stay" changed from lexical verbs, for example “go to location X” or “stay at location X”, to aspectual items, meaning “going to V(erb) and “keep going V(erb)”. The changes in the use of these verbs like "go" and "stay" correlated with the participant’s language use of Dutch, i.e., Dutch seemed to influence Frisian. Speakers who use more Dutch valued this “new meaning” the highest, indicating that their Frisian had been changed more.  She presented her work at the Day of Frisian Linguistics in The Netherlands on October 23rd, 2015. Next steps for her research include a deeper investigation of the underlying syntactic structures of these changing verbs and expanding the research to other verbs and other linguistic contexts in the Netherlands. 

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Heritage Languages and Language Users in the EU

A heritage language is one that families bring with them when they move to a different country. Speakers of heritage languages often face particular barriers relating to perceptions of immigration and ethnic diversity across Europe.

 
The team at the University of Konstanz are pleased to welcome Monika Lindauer, who started her PhD position last April. She will work on sociolinguistic aspects influencing the acquisition of German by Italian and Turkish heritage language speaking children.




In September 2015, Janet Grijzenhout of the University of 
Konstanz and Hamida Demirdache of the University of Nantes organized a workshop on “Heritage Language Acquisition” during the GALA (Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition) conference in Nantes. The workshop focused on recent research, hoping to shed new light on the longstanding issues that language knowledge and acquisition raise. They looked into the unique process of heritage language acquisition and compared that to traditional L1 and L2 acquisition, exploring problems with incomplete acquisition, language attrition and the possibilities of native-like competence for heritage language speakers. You can read more about this workshop here



Post-doctoral researcher Khalid Mourigh of Leiden University spoke at the DRONGO language festival in Utrecht (26 September). He presented his ongoing research on Moroccan Dutch and the striking difference in consonant pronunciation, due to the influence of Berber and Moroccan Arabic. Take a look at the Dutch language presentation here. 
 
AmazighTV made a short documentary of the DRONGO language festival and Dr. Mourighs research. You can watch the Dutch language documentary here.

In the previous newsletter we mentioned the Berber-apps being developed by AThEME researchers Dr Khalid Mourigh and Dr Maarten Kossman. The apps aim to help children learn Rif Berber or Tamazight - the home language of most Moroccans in the Netherlands. The team behind the project were interviewed by Dutch radio. You can listen to the Dutch language interview here (22.38-28.20).

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Multilingualism and Communicative Impairment

Many people experience a form of communicative impairment - from stammering, dyslexia and Specific Language Impairment in children, to aphasia following a stroke or traumatic brain injury later in life. But what happens when someone with communicative impairment speaks more than one language?

Earlier this year PhD researcher Constantin Freitag and Prof Josef Bayer of the University of Konstantz presented a poster on "Invisible verb-final parsing in German: Uncovered by NPIs" at the XII International Symposium of Psycholinguistics in Valencia, Spain. Take a look at the poster here.

Together with Oliver Bott and Fabian Schlotterbeck from Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, Constantin Freitag will organize a workshop at the 38th annual conference of the German Linguistic Society (DGfS) to be held in Konstanz from 23.-26.2.2016. The workshop is entitled "Verb Second in Grammar and Processing: its Causes and its Consequences" and will bring together researchers from theoretical linguistics, psycholinguistics and L1/L2 research on the phenomenon of verb second placement. Further information about the workshop can be accessed via their webpage

From October to December 2015, Constantin Freitag will visit the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New-Delhi, India to conduct psycholinguistic experiments with L2-learners of German.
 
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Being Multilingual

This research theme will focus on the cognitive aspects of multilingualism. Researchers will look at the possible relationship between language and other mental operations like attention and memory, and try to find which factors can best predict how well someone learns a second language.


Much of the research in this work package centres around the relationship between language and executive function (tasks such as switching attention between tasks, or ignoring distracting information), and the possible effects of language distance - how similar two languages are.

Two articles by AThEME researchers from the University of the Basque Country have been published in a special issue of Language, Cognition and Neuroscience devoted to the topic of cross-linguistic and field-based approaches to the study of psycholinguistics.

In one article Ros et al. (2015) examined word order preferences as a function of phrasal length in Basque. They found a general preference for long words to come before short words in Basque, in contrast to to traditional views that all languages prefer short words to come earlier in the sentence. The authors conclude that preferences for word order are affected by the individual features of the language, such as the richness of its morphology. For the full text of the article, click here.

In the second article, Santesteban et al. (2015) explored how people produce sentences in languages with different word order. They investigated whether the principles that we know apply for subject-verb-object languages (such as English) also apply to subject-object-verb languages with ergative-absolutive case systems (such as Basque). To read the full article, click here.


The 8th "SinFonIJa" (syntax, phonology and language analysis) conference took place at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, from 24th to 26th September 2015. Invited speaker Prof.  Penka Stateva presented the preliminary results of AThEME research into pragmatic abilities. The study, carried out by research groups at CNRS-L2C2, France and the University of Nova Gorica, Slovenia, investigates the differences in comprehending scalar implicatures by monolingual and bilingual speakers. The researchers studied bilingual adults and children and looked at how they understand implicit meaning (e.g., if a speaker says “I watched some of the game”, a meaning based on logic could be that they watched the entire game; but as native speakers we understand that they almost certainly did not watch all of the game.) Results showed that the bilingual participants were more likely to understand the implied meaning than the monolingual participants. The conference abstracts can be read here.
 

As part of the European Researchers' Night (25 September), Johanneke Caspers, Jurriaan Witteman, Jennifer Meijs and Jos Pacilly of the Leiden University Centre for Linguistics (LUCL) gave a demonstration of Lorre to the general public in the museum Naturalis in Leiden. Lorre is a software tool that aims to assist foreign language learners to improve their pronunciation, by offering visual feedback on the differences between utterances of one or more native speaker speech samples and the students.
In terms of the AThEME project, Lorre can help quantifying the progress in pronunciation learning of second language learners to determine ultimate attainment, for instance. The system is also valuable to second language researchers, as all productions of the student may be included anonymously in a database for offline analysis

Upcoming events


Key dates for your diary over the coming months.



FEBRUARY 26 – 28 (Konstanz, Germany)
  • 38th annual conference of the German Linguistic Society (DGfS) in Konstanz from 23.-26.2.2016. More information here.

MARCH 11-12 (Glasgow, Scotland)
  • Language Show Live in Scotland. One of Europe’s major language events comes to Scotland for the first time. With UK AThEME researchers on hand to discuss their findings. More information here.

Meet the Researcher


Dr Khalid Mourigh is a researcher at the Leiden University Center for Linguistics (LUCL) at the University of Leiden. We ask him about all things bilingual.





KhalidDr. Khalid Mourigh is interested in ethnolects (an ethnolect is a variety of a language associated with a certain ethnic or cultural subgroup), specifically the Moroccan-Dutch ethnolect that is developing in the Netherlands. This ethnolect has developed in the Moroccan minority group in the main cities in the Netherlands. Berber and Arabic are the languages spoken mostly at home by the community. Dutch is mostly used in all other domains (with peers and in school). This multilingualism and the specific conditions of the Moroccan-Dutch have resulted in the emergence of a separate variety of Dutch. Khalid's interests lie primarily in sociolinguistics and in the description of some of the phonetic aspects of this variety. 
 

How would you define "bilingual"?

I would define a bilingual as someone who has the capacity to engage to a reasonable degree in a conversation in a second language.
 

How did you first become interested in bilingualism?

The thing that sparked my interest was the awareness that people could switch between languages which they seemed to speak natively. That was something which astonished me growing up in the Netherlands (even though people speak English here, it is not on a native level), but it is actually quite normal in Morocco. Many people in Morocco speak Berber, Arabic and French fluently. 
 

Can you tell us about any recent bilingualism research you have been involved in? And what are you looking at as part of AThEME?

In my PhD thesis I made a grammatical description of a Berber language that is so heavily influenced by Arabic that one is hard-pressed to find the difference between the two languages in some areas of the grammar. The people who speak those languages are mostly illiterate, but it is very normal for them to switch between the two languages in everyday conversations. 
In AThEME I’m looking at the influence of Berber and Moroccan Arabic on the Dutch that is spoken by Moroccan youngsters in Holland (specifically in Gouda). These people grow up hearing and often speaking (two or more) languages. It seems that they have created a new variety of Dutch. 
 

Do you speak any other languages?

My main languages are Dutch, (two forms of) Berber, (Moroccan) Arabic and English (little bit of French and German).
 

What have you found to be the hardest thing about researching bilingualism?

In my PhD research it was hard to find criteria to define the difference between code-switching and borrowing in Ghomara Berber (the Berber language I worked on). The people switch between the languages so often and it is so natural for them that there seemed to be no criteria. Currently, I’m finding it quite hard to find criteria to define the ethnolect that  I’m working on now. 
 

Complete the sentence: speaking another language is...

entering a new world of experiences.
 

What do you think is the most important issue in bilingualism research right now?

For me language contact is the most interesting issue at the moment. The fact that two (or more) languages influence each other subconsciously is fascinating.  

Dr Mourigh was interviewed by AmazighTV about his research and presentation at the DRONGO language festival. To see the Dutch language interview, click here
AThEME project leaflets available to download. 

 



Click on the image above or contact your national Bilingualism Matters branch.

Dissemination news

 

AThEME project logo

Each participating country (Croatia, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain, United Kingdom) now has a branch of Bilingualism Matters, responsible for coordinating dissemination in that country. Find out more about your local branch and what they have been up to! 
 


All branches share a central aim: to raise awareness and promote evidence-based 
information about bilingualism and language learning across Europe. As the AThEME project develops, branches of Bilingualism Matters will be able to communicate the AThEME findings and policy recommendations in all sectors of European society.

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CROATIA

AThEMEM dissemination event with Croatian stakeholders

The branch recently launched the Italian version of their website, to celebrate Italian Language in the World week (19 – 14 October).
 
The team gave two invited talks at the “Let's Go through Culture” International Conference, 19 June 2015. Dr Irena Vodopija-Krstanović gave a talk about the role of culture in teaching English as an international language and Dr Tihana Kraš, Siniša Smiljanić and Ana Bratulić spoke about tandem language learning. The branch’s own Tandem Language programme remains very successful and was the focal point of their celebrations for European Day of Languages (25 September) – posters and flyers were distributed across Rijeka.

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FRANCE  AThEME dissemination at la fête des langues, NantesBilingualism Matters in Nantes hosted the GALA  (General Approach of Language Acquisition) conference from 10-12 September. This AThEME event was organised to inform researchers about advances in bilingual and multilingual research. More information about the conference (including te full programme) can be found here 

The team also hosted an invited talk for researchers by Maria Polinsky (Harvard University) on “Embracing ascending orders: verb clusters in bilingual acquisition”.
 
 
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GERMANY
  • Branch name: Zentrum für Mehrsprachigkeit/ Centre for Multilingualism
  • Hosted by: University of Konstanz
  • Website: Centre for Multilingualism
On 16 October 2015, the Center for Multilingualism together with University of Education St. Gallen (Switzerland) and the Equal Opportunity Office at the University of Konstanz hosted an all-day conference on “Multilingualism in Day Care and Schools: New Challenges and new Paths”. The topic attracted over 140 participants from Germany and Switzerland. Internationally renowned researchers such as Annick de Houwer (University of Erfurt, Germany), Inci Dirim (University of Vienna, Austria) and AThEME-colleague Maarten Kossmann (University of Leiden) presented their work and discussed consequences for practice in kindergarten and schools. Further information and photos can be found here

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ITALY

AThEME team at University of TrentoIn the last couple of months, the team of Bilinguismo Conta in Trento have organised a number of AThEME related presentations, discussions and workshops, such as presentations and discussions on bilingualism, practical experiences and linguistic development at the Kulturinstitut Lusern for teachers and parents. A presentation at the National Congress of Primary School Representatives on Plurilingualism in Classes for school managers and policy makers was also very successful.
Bilinguismo Conta also organised an International summer school program on the theme of "Language, Culture and Society: The Challenges of Transformation in Europe", with presentations of data and discussions of linguistic difficulties faced by university students and researchers in their educational curriculum. More information can be found here

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NETHERLANDS

On 25 and 26 September, the Dutch branch of Bilingualism Matters and various AThEME researchers were present with an information stand at DRONGO language festival in Utrecht. Members of the public who visited the stand found information about raising and/ or educating children bilingually, played a quiz about languages and linguistics and learnt more about the AThEME-project. This festival is the largest language festival in the Netherlands and aims at both language professionals and general audience. The DRONGO language festival is organised by De Taalstudio.

In that same week, BM@NL was present at a conference for teachers and other professionals working in primary education, where they gave a presentation on multilingual classrooms. 

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SLOVENIA

Bilingualism Matters in Slovenia have organised an event called “Bilingualism: advantages, preconceptions and new discoveries”. This event was aimed at parents and teachers of an elementary school, describing the main aspects of bilingualism to an audience that lives in an officially bilingual area of Slovenia. They described the AThEME project and their specific branch, as well as the preliminary results of a study in which the children of the school participated.


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SPAIN

Poster day hosted by Bilingual Mind Group at University of the Basque CountryThe staff at the University of the Basque Country have hosted 4 invited talks where AThEME was discussed:
  • * The electrified linguistics: what electrophysiology reveals about the structure of language. 22-23 October 2015 (Universidad de Zaragoza, Spain) for specialists in psycholinguistics, neurolinguistics and biolinguistics
  • Bilingualism an exercise to train the brain? Talk presented by Dr Mikel Santesteban the 16th of October. Open talk to general public (Barañain, Navarre, Spain)
  • Research travel: reflections on language. Talk presented by Prof Laka in IkerGazte Nazioarteko Ikerketa Euskaraz (Durango, Viscay ,Spain) the 14th May 2015.
  • Bilingualism and Cognition, XXXI Congreso de FEDADi. Federación de Asociaciones de Directivos de Centros Educativos Públicos. Talk presented by Prof Laka the 07th May 2015 in Durango (Viscay, Spain)

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  UNITED KINGDOM
Bilingualism Matters in Edinburgh has promoted AThEME through a number of training workshops, discussions and information sessions for professionals, parents and general public on language learning and bilingual development.

AThEME PhD students (Michela Bonfieni, Ellise Suffil, Catriona Gibb) took part in the European Researcher’s night (25 September) with a “meet the experts” session at the National museum of Scotland. Through this interactive exhibit, over 120 members of the public tested their executive function (a major element of the students’ research programme), discussed the group’s research findings, learnt about different languages spoken in the UK, and found out more about AThEME and multilingualism in Europe. 

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