AThEME project newsletter
to our Winter edition of the AThEME newsletter, and thank you for your interest in our project.
Just over half-way into this 5-year European research project, and as the Research section of this latest issue shows, research is well underway on all four of AThEME’s research themes. One of the ways in which we aim to share all this information is by means of the international Bilingualism Matters (BM) network on learning multiple languages. Find out more about what each of the AThEME BM country branches has been up to over the past months in the Dissemination news section. Many upcoming AThEME activities are listed under Upcoming Events. And last but not least, we are proud to introduce this issue’s Meet the Researcher, Beatriz Fernández from the University of the Basque Country.
Don’t miss any of our latest news about AThEME research themes, publications and dissemination activities, which are updated monthly on the new AThEME website www.atheme.eu.
We hope you enjoy the newsletter and we wish you a wonderful and multilingual 2017.
The AThEME dissemination team
Dr Maaike Verrips Prof Antonella Sorace Fleur Verbiest MSc MA
On the 15th and 16th of September 2016 our second AThEME consortium meeting was held in the historic city of Verona in Italy. Hosted by the University of Verona, the meeting saw about 60 AThEME researchers come together in the beautifully refurbished Polo Santa Marta Università to present their research and discuss upcoming AThEME work. Next to the researchers, guests included three members of the AThEME’s highly-esteemed Advisory Board members, members of AThEME's Ethical Advisory board, special guest Professor François Grin of the EU-funded MIME project, and AThEME’s EU Project Officer. A summary report on this meeting will be made available on the AThEME website in due course.
AThEME research focuses on four themes, 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.
In 2016 AThEME researchers from the Université de Nantes have been working on syntax and phonology of the regional language Gallo, which is spoken in Bretagne, France.
Syntax of Gallo: Samantha Becerra Zita and her team collected data through the translation of a story from French to Gallo. From this, they created an overview of the behavior of some n-words (words expressing negation) in Gallo such as pas, (pas) jamin, (pas) aoqhun. They realized that Gallo n-words seem to behave differently from French n-words. Subsequently, Samantha interviewed seven speakers of Gallo in order to determine if n-words in Gallo behaved like n-words in French. She selected speakers from different regions (such as Treillières, Guitté, Béauce, Nantes, Plemet, Loudéac, etc.) because there could exist variation among them.
Phonology of Gallo: Jieun Bark has worked on recruiting Gallo speakers in order to collect data (concerning syllabic liquids and palatal consonants). She conducted interviews with eight Gallo speakers from three different departments. Furthermore, she has been preparing audio recordings and interviews for inclusion in an accessible database. From August to September 2016, preliminary phonetic analyses have been carried out to investigate the nature of vocoid preceding liquid and the nature of schwa in Gallo. The results suggest that Gallo liquids should be treated differently from French. Since October 2016, Jieun is focusing on the representation of Gallo's phonological system and structure.
The team in Trento and Verona have finished the website of VinKo (Varieties in Contact). The main goal of VinKo is to discover the relevance of minority languages and local varieties and to describe language contact between South Tyrolean dialect and dialects of Trentino. VinKo is a system that enables the collection of a large amount of oral data through an online platform, which is crucial for an inquiry on micro-variation. As more people access the program and record their pronunciation, the corpus of language varieties grows. The online platform offers a questionnaire divided into three parts: sociolinguistic profile, syntax and phonological analysis. The platform can be visited through this link: https://www.dipsco.unitn.it/vinko/. For more information you can also visit their facebookpage: https://www.facebook.com/varietiesincontact/
In the Netherlands, Myrthe Bergstra from Utrecht University investigates the influence of Dutch on Frisian language. Between June and October 2016, she has been collecting a large dataset by means of questionnaires with over 500 participants. The questionnaires addressed some of the main differences between Frisian and Dutch syntax and its goal was to find some general results about which constructions might be changing due to contact and which are more stable. Currently, Myrthe is analyzing the results to discover why certain constructions are changing and others are stable.
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 of the University of Konstanz investigates the developmental path of German grammar of children who grow up learning Italian and Turkish at home and who also acquire the ambient language (German) in Germany. Last summer they finished their pilot experiments with bilingual children. After evaluation of the preliminary results, they further developed and improved the methodological settings of their sentence completion test and the wizard game. The aim of the two experiments is to investigate how children acquire German word order (V2 versus verb-end sentences), morphosyntactic features and word stress.
Pilot Results: In the pilot results, they found interesting tendencies of factors that influence language competence. They observed that older children tend to perform better than younger children with respect to verb position and the definite article. More interestingly, verb position is more problematic in V2 than in V-final target clauses. This might be due to the more complex operation of verb raising. They also found that the definite article is mostly correct in cases of feminine gender, whereas children have more problems with masculine and neuter gender. If this finding is supported by future data, they will be able to confirm other research findings about the feminine article being the first one in the acquisition process.
Another interesting finding concerns a slight tendency of cross-language influence on word stress: children with Italian and Turkish as their heritage language reduce German unstressed syllables to a lesser extent than German monolingual children do. A possible explanation might be the influence of the syllable timed heritage languages.
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?
Leonie Cornips and Jolien Makkinga from the Meertens Institute in the Netherlands investigate the language practices in a nursing home and how language practices can contribute to the well-being of the residents. In September 2016 they have given a clinical lesson to the nursing staff of nursing home Tabitha in The Hague. In addition, a management meeting was held with various professionals working at Tabitha to discuss the relation between language practices and the well-being of the residents. After the clinical lesson and management meeting, recommendations for language policy in the nursing home were handed out.
During spring and summer 2016, the team from Konstanz analyzed the data of the learner experiments that were gathered in India at the end of the year 2015. The results were presented at the AThEME consortium meeting in Verona in September 2016: 'V2 vs. V-final in acquisition: Experimental evidence from Indian learners of L2 German'.
At the University of Verona, AThEME researchers are investigating the nature of the relationship between developmental dyslexia and bilingualism. They have developed and administered an original experimental protocol testing different aspects of linguistic and cognitive competence. The protocol has been administered to 108 children, aged between 8 and 12 years old: Italian monolingual dyslexic children, bilingual dyslexic children with Italian as L2, Italian monolingual typically developing children and bilingual typically developing children with Italian as L2. The goal of their study is to investigate how bilingualism interacts with dyslexia in a task measuring the subject’s morphological skills, to check whether the advantage typically found in bilingualism arises also in presence of a linguistic impairment such as dyslexia. Since June 2016, their main task has been running statistical analysis on the data collected to investigate how bilingualism and dyslexia interact with each other in the linguistic and cognitive tasks that they have administered.
Preliminary Results: Preliminary results seem to indicate that bilingualism has a positive effect for dyslexic children, especially in tasks tapping the subjects’ metalinguistic awareness. This is an important outcome for all educators, speech therapists and teachers who think that bilingualism may have a negative influence on dyslexia. Based on these preliminary results, bilingualism emerges as an opportunity to catch, even in the case of communicative impairment and language pathologies.
This research focuses on the cognitive aspects of multilingualism. Researchers are looking at the possible relationship between language and other mental operations like attention and memory, and are trying to find which factors can best predict how well someone learns a second language.
Throughout June 2016, Ellise Suffill and her team from the University of Edinburgh, analyzed data from two studies exploring an interactive paradigm that examines how interaction and language may affect people’s categories. They found that new labels bring people’s categories closer together. Currently the research team is extending this paradigm in order to examine the effects of interaction on categories when native and non-native speakers of English interact. When speakers of different languages categorize objects without labels, they are surprisingly similar to one another. However, when people categorize with labels, they become more similar to speakers of their own language, but markedly different to speakers of other languages. They examine specifically whether Mandarin-English bilinguals will show a shift in categories after interaction with British English monolinguals. They want to find out whether such a short interaction can have effects upon people’s category boundaries.
The Bilingual Mind group of the University of the Basque Country (UPV / EHU) have been working on the impact of age of acquisition and language distance on ultimate attainment in second language learning. They finished analyzing the data from Basque-Spanish and Spanish-Basque bilinguals. Their findings suggest that L2 processing is shaped by the characteristics of the L1 grammar and that native vs. non-native differences obtain for those traits in which L1 and L2 differ (ergative and accusative alignment, clitic doubling, head-directionality) while a similar pattern is found for the characteristics present in both the L1 and the L2 (dative case morphology).
Likewise, in collaboration with the Pompeu Fabra University, they investigated the role of cognate words in language switching performance among low- and high-proficient Spanish-Catalan bilinguals. Results revealed the following: (a) responses to cognates were faster than to non-cognates; (b) the magnitude of the switching cost was similar regardless of the cognate status of either the preceding or the target word; (c) L2-Learners vs. Bilinguals showed different language switching cost patterns (replicating Costa & Santesteban, 2004). Overall, these findings suggest that the cognate status of words does not facilitate language switching and it does not alter the lexical selection mechanisms' implicated during production.
Collaboration: Besides, they have kept collaborating with Prof. Artur Stepanov and Prof. Penka Stateva from the University of Nova Gorica (Slovenia). They conducted a self-paced reading experiment in which they investigated processing of long-distance dependencies by advanced Slovenian speakers of L2 Italian and native Italian speakers. They found that the speakers do judge the wh-island sentences worse than the respective controls, but the observed degradation is not due to a true island effect; extraction of a wh-subject out of a wh-island leads to the so called reverse island effect whereby the acceptability is actually higher than expected even if the above two complexity factors are taken into consideration; and speakers are sensitive to the subject island effect, as predicted by the standard generative theories of syntactic locality. Overall, their results contribute to establishing a solid empirical base for further theoretical investigations of the island effects in Slovenian, as well as raise some new questions for the syntax of Slovenian and the role of processing factors in speakers’ evaluation of island constructions.
Each country participating in AThEME (Croatia, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain, United Kingdom) hosts a branch of Bilingualism Matters, and is responsible for coordinating the dissemination of AThEME in that country. All branches share a central aim: to raise awareness and to support evidence-based decision making 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.
Find out more about your local branch and what they have been up to!
Hosted by: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Rijeka
In June 2016 Ana Bratulić, Siniša Smiljanić, Branka Drljača Margić and Tihana Kraš participated at the CLARC 2016 conference 'Perspectives on Language Planning and Policies' at the University of Rijeka. They gave a talk entitled 'The challenges of the implementation of the policy of multilingualism in Croatia' about identifying problems related to the implementation of the policy of multilingualism in Croatia and possible solutions to these problems in the fields of education and childcare, culture, the media, health and minority rights. They also presented the results of this study to the Croatian AThEME stakeholders. More information about this presentation can be found here.
In July 2016 BM@Rijeka gave several talks at a training event called 'Non-native language acquisition as a form of bilingualism with special emphasis on the Croatian language' for Croatian language teachers and primary school teachers organised by the Education and Teacher Training Agency.
In September 2016 the BM branch participated in the celebration of the European Day of Languages by setting up a stand in Rijeka’s main pedestrian street Korzo.
In October 2016 Tihana Kraš and Ana Bratulić gave a talk about the myths about multilingualism and its advantages at the presentation of Dragica Stanić’s Čakavian idiom e-textbook called 'Čakavčica'. They also presented the results of a study they have conducted with Siniša Smiljanić and Branka Drljača Margić into the status and inclusion of local idioms in the Croatian language curriculum/classes. An article about this event appeared in the Novi List daily newspaper on 21 October 2016. More information can be found here.
And last but not least, the fifth cycle of Bilingualism Matters@Rijeka’s popular Tandem Language Learning Programme started running in November 2016. This cycle features six languages: English, Spanish, Italian, French, German and Croatian.
Hosted by: University of Nantes
Jieun Bark from Bilingualism Matters in Nantes presented her research on the phonology of Gallo at the DRONGO language festival 2016 in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Visitors could discover phonological differences and/or similarities between French and Gallo through a guessing and matching game. The goal was to inform that Gallo is not simply bad French but a fully-fledged language with its own phonological system, which is distinct from French. Most of the participants were linguists and French language learners.
Comparing French and Gallo made clear that Gallo is not a sub language of French but a sister language that originated from Vulgar Latin like French. Here you can find more information about her presentation at the DRONGO language festival.
Furthermore, several AThEME researchers presented their research related to the syntax and phonology of Gallo at different congresses:
- S. Becerra-Zita & E. Heredia 'On N-words in Gallo, the case of pas aoqhun' in the 13th Workshop on Syntax, Semantics and Phonology (13WOSS), University of Barcelona, Spain. June 30-July 1, 2016.
- S. Becerra-Zita & E. Heredia 'On N-words in Gallo, the case of pas jamin' in Syntax of word languages (SWLVII), Palacio de la autonomía, Mexico City, Mexico. August 17-20, 2016.
- J. Bark & S. Becerra-Zita 'N-words and syllabic liquids in Gallo', AThEME consortium meeting, Verona, Italy. September 14-15, 2016.
- S. Becerra-Zita & N. Guilliot 'Negative Concord in Gallo' in Rencontre d'Automne de Linguistique Formelle (RALFe 2016), Paris, France. November 3-4, 2016.
Zentrum für Mehrsprachigkeit/ Centre for Multilingualism
Hosted by: University of Konstanz
In October 2016, Monika Lindauer and her colleagues from the BabySpeechLab presented their research projects and methods at a parents’ evening in a local Kindergarten.
Josef Bayer and Constantin Freitag presented an invited talk at a workshop about verb second phenomena that took place in July 2016 at the Bergische Universität Wuppertal. The talk was entitled 'How much verb moves to second position? Theoretical and experimental evidence'.
Constantin Freitag gave a talk entitled 'Reassessing acceptability judgments: methodology, models, and alternatives' at a workshop on 'Methodology and language assessment: Heritage speakers and beyond' in Konstanz, September 2016.
On September 30 and October 1, 2016 Janet Grijzenhout joined the DRONGO language festival in Utrecht, the Netherlands. She supported the AThEME exhibitor unit with general information about AThEME and she promoted the Centre for Multilingualism in Konstanz.
Hosted by: University of Trento
Bilinguismo Conta organized several events. In March and April 2016 Jan Casalicchio organized four fieldwork events in Salorno (province of Bolzano) with the aim to collect data and to promote the importance of bilingualism, in particular the knowledge of a regional language besides the standard language(s).
In March, April and May 2016 Sabine C. Stricker organized six events about languages in nursery schools ‘playing in English and playing in German’.
In June 2016 Patrizia Cordin organized the event ‘The University of Trento meets local institutions' representatives.’ She presented activities and projects concerning the development of bilingualism to policy makers of local institutions.
In September 2016 the branch organized a dissemination network meeting for the Bilingualism Matters branches and local stakeholders at the University of Trento. All branches of Bilingualism Matters came together to exchange good practices and connect with each other. Local stakeholders of AThEME (two Ladin cultural institutes, the Cimbrian cultural Institute and the Mòcheno cultural Institute) were invited to present their work and connect with the Bilingualism Matters branches.
On September 30 and October 1, 2016, Luca Ducceschi and Roberto Zamparelli from the University of Trento (Italy) presented their hands-on game, 'PuzzLing' at the DRONGO language festival 2016 in Utrecht, the Netherlands. This game is a set of wooden tiles which latch together to compose grammatically correct sentences, and their structures, in German, English and Italian.
Furthermore, on October 3, 2016 Patrizia Cordin was interviewed on RAI Radio2 about ‘Bilingualism with a minority language: Cimbrian’.
In July 2016 Denis Delfitto from the University of Verona and Shenai Hu from the University of Milano-Bicocca presented their work ‘The comprehension of Mandarin double negation in Mandarin-Italian bilingual children’ at the 24th Annual Conference of the International Association of Chinese Linguistics at the Beijing Language and Culture University in China.
Hosted by: De Taalstudio
On September 30 and October 1, 2016 Bilingualism Matters@NL participated at the DRONGO language festival in the Netherlands with two exhibitor units. One of the units was focused on the promotion of Bilingualism Matters @ NL. Several experts were invited to advise parents about raising children with more than one language. The other unit presented AThEME research directly, with contributions from the University of Trento, The University of Nantes and the University of Reading.
Furthermore, Myrthe Bergstra from Utrecht University gave three talks at different occasions, published an article in a newspaper and was interviewed on the radio.
On November 1, 2016 the Frisian newspaper ‘Leeuwarder Courant’ published an item about her research entitled ‘Frisians attach great value to the conjunction in their language’ and on November 2, 2016 Myrthe was interviewed on the local radio channel Omrop Fryslân.
- On October 21, 2016 she presented her work on the Day of Frisian Linguistics.
- On October 27-28, 2016 she presented a talk at the international conference “Language contact from an I-language perspective” which was organized by CNRS-IKER and the University of the Basque Country in Spain.
- On September 30, 2016 she presented her work on the DRONGO language festival in Utrecht.
Hosted by: University of Nova Gorica
In June 2016, Sara Andreetta, Arthur Stepanov and Penka Stateva, organized a public event, "Living with two languages: from childhood to the third period of life" in Gorizia, Italy, in collaboration with their stakeholders SLORI (Slovene Research Institute). The event aimed at popularizing results from current research on bilingualism and more specifically, making topics like linguistic and cognitive advantages and challenges of bilingualism accessible to non-academic parties living in the bilingual region between Slovenia and Italy, including teachers and parents raising bilingual children. It featured five research reports that focused on bilingual language acquisition, aging and bilingualism and sociolinguistic parameters of code-switching. All talks were followed by an open discussion involving the audience.
Hosted by: Bilingual Mind Group at University of the Basque Country
In June 2016 Itziar Laka gave a lecture in Bilbao directed to the general public, about language and bilingualism. This conference was organized as part of the ten year celebration of the Chair for Scientific Culture of the University of the Basque Country. The lecture took place in the big auditorium of the Azkuna Center and about 500 people attended. Furthermore, local TV, radio and newspapers were present as well. The full video of the conference was taped by the Basque Public Television, and can be seen here.
In September 2016 Itziar Laka gave a lecture entitled ‘Hizkuntzak burmuinean: noiz, non, nola (Languages in the brain: when, where, how?)’and Mikel Santesteban gave a lecture entitled ‘Elebitasuna: zama ala ondarea burmuinarentzat? (Bilingualism: a burden or a training for the brain?)’. Both were keynote lectures within the Summer Courses organized by the Public University of Navarre (NUP/UPNA) in Iruña-Pamplona. The audience of these lectures were school teachers involved in bilingual education. More information (in Basque) about this event can be found here.
Moreover, In September 2016 Mikel Santesteban was interviewed by the newspaper ‘Diario de Navarra’ about various aspects of bilingualism. And Idoia Ros gave a talk within the Naukas Bilbao event. The talk can be seen here.
On October 27-28, CNRS-IKER (Center for the Study of the Basque Language and its Texts (UMR 5478)) and the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) organized the international conference ‘Language contact from an I’language perspective’ in Donostia-San Sebastian. Several AThEME researchers were present at the event and they placed a Bilingualism Matters stand. More information about this event can be found here.
In November 2016, the Bilingual Mind research group participated in the Science Week organized by the University of the Basque Country in Vitoria-Gasteiz. During these days, they presented ‘La Mente Bilingüe: jugando con los idiomas’ (The Bilingual mind: playing with languages).This included a series of interactive activities related to language, multilingualism and language research to schools and the general public.
Furthermore, Beatriz Fernández published a public book entitled ‘Basc per a catalanoparlants (O de com dues llengües tan diferents s’assemblen tant)’. The book is translated into Catalan by Ana Pineda. Traditionally, Basque bilinguals have been Basque/Spanish or Basque/French speakers. In contrast, nowadays there are an increasing number of bilinguals that combine Basque with other languages from all over the world, such as Catalan. Thus, this book is dedicated to both native and non-native Basque/Catalan bilinguals and especially to those that make a big effort to learn Basque as adults. The book is an attempt to show that beyond the formal differences that distinguish Basque and Catalan, both languages look alike.
Hosted by: University of Edinburgh
The team from the Bilingualism Matters branch in Edinburgh participated in several events:
In September 2016, they hosted a stall at the Explorathon event as part of the European Researchers’ Night. They gave people the chance to play task switching games and to try and top the leaderboard. This was a demonstration of the sort of task they use when examining executive functions in monolingual and bilingual populations. The event also gave them a great chance to chat one-on-one with people to explain the importance of understanding the effects of bilingualism on the brain, and to inform people about the work Bilingualism Matters does within the community.
In August 2016 Ellise Suffill from the University of Edinburgh went to The Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society 2016 (CogSci ) in Philadelphia (United States). She gave a talk about how interaction and language may affect people’s categories and the finding that novel labels bring people’s categories closer together.
In June 2016, Bilingualism Matters@Reading and Film, Theatre and Television Department, University of Reading hosted the event ‘From “Mud Men” to Reading: multilingual voices of migration, exile and resilience’. They performed a short play based on true stories, using puppetry, narration and sound, highlighting challenges facing Syrian refugee children in the Lebanese camps. This was followed by short discussions with several Reading academics and a psychotherapist.
In September 2016, Theo Marinis from Bilingualism Matters@Reading promoted an Artificial Grammar Learning task at the DRONGO language festival 2016 in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Theo and his team have developed one Artificial Grammar with colours and one with sounds to find out how good and how fast children and adults are to detect patterns they see or listen to.
Furthermore, in September 2016 Antonella Sorace gave two radio interviews, one for the 'NPR New York' and the second one for the 'Talk Radio Europe'.
Key dates for your diary over the coming months.
December 2, 2016 (Trento, Italy)
AThEME researcher Maria Vender will give a talk entitled: “Bilingualism is beneficial to dyslexia: The case of morphological awareness” at the ‘Doctoral Seminar’ at the University of Trento, Italy.
December 2, 2016 (Sittard, the Netherlands)
Fontys University of Applied Sciences and AThEME researcher Leonie Cornips (Meertens Institute/ Maastricht University) are organizing an AThEME dissemination event. The event aims to exchange knowledge and experiences related to the challenges that come along with new multilingualism of people with a residence permit, refugees and migrants in the area of Limburg. They will create a dialogue between the educational and research field, new multilinguals and experts. AThEME researchers Leonie Cornips (Meertens Institute), Jacomine Nortier (Utrecht University) and Khalid Mourigh (Leiden University) will give a talk and Maaike Verrips (De Taalstudio) will moderate. More information (in Dutch) can be found here.
December 16, 2016 (Verona, Italy)
The University of Verona will host a workshop about the AThEME research theme ‘Multilingualism and Communicative Impairment’ entitled “Dyslexia, SLI and Bilingualism”. Several AThEME researchers will participate, including Theo Marinis from the University of Reading and Maria Teresa Guasti from the University of Milano-Bicocca.
February 20-24, 2017 (Edinburgh, United Kingdom)
The Bilingualism Matters team from Edinburgh will participate at the Festival of Creative Learning which takes place at the University of Edinburgh. They will promote multilingualism and inform the visitors about AThEME. More information can be found here.
March 10-11, 2017 (Glasgow, United Kingdom)
Bilingualism Matters and AThEME researchers from Edinburgh will participate at the Language Show Live in Scotland.The event is especially interesting for language teachers, learners, linguists, translators, interpreters and job seekers who love languages. More information can be found here.
March 14-19, 2017 (Leiden, the Netherlands)
The 40th GLOW (Generative Linguistics in the Old World) colloquium and workshops will be hosted by Leiden University Centre for Linguistics in The Netherlands. Several AThEME researchers will attend the colloquium. More information can be found here.
Meet the Researcher
Beatriz Fernández is a professor at the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU). She has just edited a volume entitled 'Microparameters in the grammar of Basque' together with Jon Ortiz de Urbina. She is also the author of Euskera para castellanohablantes (Basque for Spanish speakers). Nowadays, she is engaged in two projects: a free online database entitled Euskara Bariazioan/Basque in Variation (BiV) (to be published in December 2016), and the volume Basque and Romance in comparison.
How would you define "bilingual"?
By definition, the word bilingual means to have been exposed to two (or more) languages and to have acquired both of them. Nevertheless, acquisition is a complex process that may involve early or late language acquisition, acquisition in or out school etc. With so many factors involved, there is not only one way to define the word.
How did you first become interested in bilingualism?
Bilingualism is part of my life: my parents were some of those Spanish monolinguals who created ikastolas (Basque schools) in the sixties, when Franco, the Spanish dictator, was still alive. In a village where Basque had almost disappeared, the language was restored thanks to those schools. I can proudly say that I am the miraculous result of that Bilingual experience.
Can you tell us about any recent bilingualism research you have been involved in?
My research interests are tightly linked to Regional languages in Multilingual Europe. I am involved in the description and analysis of Basque internal variation. Basque is a language with an amazing dialectal variation and some interesting (and sometimes stigmatized) phenomena, such as differential object marking, are dialectally attested (and not generalized in the language). I am convinced that language variation can be properly understood focusing not only on languages but also on language varieties. Assuming the differences and explaining them makes us wiser. This is the perspective I take in my research.
Do you speak any other languages?
Spanish is the language I acquired at home and Basque, the one I acquired in school. I also speak English and I read Catalan and French.
What have you found to be the hardest thing about researching bilingualism?
When you do research on bilingualism, you are necessarily dealing with at least two objects at the same time. This is the challenge: confronting variation and explaining it.
Complete the sentence: speaking another language is...
…like exploring terra incognita and discovering the most amazing treasure ever found.
What do you think is the most important issue in bilingualism research right now?
There are many challenges in bilingualism research. Some of them are related to factors such as age-of-onset, or the typological distance between languages, (for instance, the acquisition of an ergative language such as Basque by a speaker of an accusative language such as Spanish, French or others). Some of these problems have already been addressed by the research team Being multilingual in AThEME with amazing results.
AThEME leaflets available to download here