Next CLLEAR seminar: Methodological considerations in measuring ambiguous relative clause attachment strategies in bilinguals

CLLEARThe next Centre for Linguistics, Language Education and Acquisition Research (CLLEAR) seminar will take place on Monday 16th April 2018 at 15:30 in Room 1011, Building 67, Highfield Campus. The talk is entitled “Methodological considerations in measuring ambiguous relative clause attachment strategies in bilinguals” and will be delivered by Elena Valenzuela from the University of Ottawa. All welcome!

Here is the abstract for this seminar:
It has been argued that monolinguals and bilinguals differ in how they resolve ambiguities in relative clause attachment. Cuetos and Mitchell (1988) first noted that sentences as in (1) and (2), which contain a complex NP of the type “NP of NP” followed by a relative clause (RC), are parsed differently depending on the language:
(1) She kissed the brother(NP1) of the poet(NP2) that was on the balcony.
(2) Elle a embrassé le frère(NP1) du poète(NP2) qui était sur la balcon.
In English (1), the poet is on the balcony whereas in the same sentence in French (2), it is the brother who is on the balcony. Languages can be grouped according to the parsing strategy for monolinguals: high attachment (Spanish, French, Greek, Italian, Japanese, etc.) and low attachment (English, Arabic, Brazilian Portuguese, Romanian, etc.).

Dussias and Sagarra (2007) found that language dominance was the Spanish-dominant bilinguals with limited exposure to English preferred high attachment in both languages, while bilinguals with extensive exposure to English preferred low attachment in both English and Spanish. Valenzuela et al. (2015) examined the parsing strategies of bilinguals in code-switched sentences and also found that language dominance and exposure played the greatest role for parsing. However, in these previous studies, participants were all living in an English environment at the time of testing which may have influenced so-called language dominance. In our study we test French/English bilinguals living their dominant language environment.
This research examines parsing strategies in monolingual and code-switched sentences to address the following research questions:
i. Does language dominance play a role in parsing strategies?
ii. Does direction of the language code-switch affect processing?
iii. Does the direction of the language code-switch affect processing differently based on individual’s language dominance?

Two groups of bilinguals: French/English living in English dominant environment (n=15) and French/English living in French dominant environment (n=14) were tested on their parsing strategies of French, English, and French/English code-switched ambiguous relative clauses. Participants were given two experimental tasks: Sentence Judgment Task and Sentence Completion Task. Results show that across the board low attachment was preferred regardless of the language environment and language dominance of the participant. This may suggest that, as in Dussias and Sagarra (2007), language exposure plays an important role. However, this may also be due to the prolonged language contact situation in Canada resulting in an emerging dialect. Results will be discussed in terms of language dominance, frequency of language usage, and appropriateness of the methodology used.

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