Bilingual morphology at the crossroads:
multidisciplinary perspectives on word structure
Rutgers University, New Brunswick (NJ) May 20, 2015
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
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.
Lisa Bedore (University of Texas, Austin)
Johanne Paradis (University of Alberta)