Keynotes and expert workshops
Prof. Dr. Annick De Houwer
Title: Are all young bilinguals the same? Why differentiate between bilingual first language acquirers and early second language acquirers?
When children are starting to learn to use language it is important to track their progress in order to find out whether they are developing as expected or not. This is a difficult undertaking in monolingual children, because there is so much variability amongst children. But when children are learning two languages, that variability is greatly increased, making it even more difficult to assess potential language learning problems. An added source of variability is the age at which children start to hear a second language. In this talk, I will discuss how important it is to take the age of bilingual acquisition into account, not only in order to assess potential language learning problems, but also to better understand the bilingual acquisition process.
Prof. Xiao-Lan Curdt-Christiansen
Title: The role of parental beliefs and practices for the process of bilingual acquisition: Does it matter if we are to fully understand bilingualism?
In recent years, raising bilingual children has become a widespread phenomenon as people cross borders, integrate into new cultural-linguistic landscapes, form intermarriages and create multilingual families. Concurrently, Family Language Policy (FLP) has received increasing attention. Of central interest is why some children, growing up in a bilingual environment, become monolinguals while other children, growing up in a monolingual society, become bilinguals. Over the past decades, researchers in this field have tried to understand the role FLP plays in bi/multilingual development by examining interactions between family members, investigating parental language ideologies, as well as studying parents’ conscious choices in their discourse strategies. In this talk, I focus on the role of parental beliefs and practices for the process of children’s bilingual development. Parental ideologies are often viewed as the driving forces underpinning the decision-making processes of FLP. They are language users’ evaluative perceptions and conceptions of language and language practices, based on their beliefs and assumptions about the social utility, power and value of a language in a given society. Parental ideologies are often shaped by non-linguistic factors associated with broader socioeconomic, sociopolitical and sociocultural forces, resulting in either valuations or de-valuations of bi/multilingualism and multiculturalism. Using examples from previous studies in Canada, Singapore and the UK, I will demonstrate how beliefs are instantiated through parental expectations and translated into language practices in children’s bilingual development.
Prof. Ben Ambridge
Title: Which theory? Finding your way through generative and non-generative approaches to first language acquisition
Newcomers to the field are often bewildered by the variety of theoretical approaches taken to language acquisition (even by monolingual learners). My goal in this talk is to set out the two main overarching approaches to the acquisition of morphosyntax: generativist and constructivist. I will illustrate these contrasting theoretical positions with examples from four domains: Basic syntax, inflectional morphology, movement constructions and c-command phenomena. I will also give examples of experimental methods and studies designed to mediate between them. I conclude that the researcher’s choice of one theoretical framework over another should arise not from personal preference or tradition, but from a dispassionate consideration of the explanatory power of the rival approaches.
Prof. Marilyn Vihman
Title: Early bilingual acquisition
Studies of early bilingual development are based on a number of different data sources: Diary data, ‘observational data’ (home recordings), and parental reports (CDI), which provide a basis for analyses of child productive knowledge, as well as experimental studies that inform perceptual and bilingual processing analyses. This workshop will focus primarily on phonological and lexical analyses of children in the first years of life, but will also report the findings of recent experimental studies of word processing in toddlers and school-age children. We will also consider a model of the bilingual lexical network and will also address the question of the stability of early bilingualism.
Prof. Dr. Annick De Houwer
Title: Screening and measuring linguistic environment, knowledge and development of young bilingual children using the CDI, PVVT, questionnaires and parent logs – how reliable are these? Which should I use?
In doing research with bilingual children, it is important to use tools that can give a fair and reliable picture of children’s language development and linguistic environment. This workshop discusses specific methodological issues that arise when tools developed for screening and assessing young monolingual children’s language development are used with bilingual children. It also critically examines some tools to explore children’s linguistic environments that have been specifically designed for use with bilingual families.
By the end of this two-day workshop, we are sure that attendees will have benefitted from listening to and interacting with scholars at the cutting edge of their field as each brings a different perspective to the notion of bilingual first language acquisition.