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Title: The activation of non-target phonological knowledge in bilingual language processing : fine-grained usage and bilingual variance
Author: John, Joanna
ISNI:       0000 0004 7656 3221
Awarding Body: King's College London
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2017
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This study explores whether a non-dominant first language (Punjabi) is phonologically active while performing tasks in a dominant environmental language (English) and whether activation of the non-target language extends beyond semantic representations to the lexeme. Previous research using the phoneme monitoring paradigm among balanced bilinguals is here developed and applied to a novel population permitting exploration of co-activation in a language under considerable pressure. An important element of the study is its attention to processing variance within a single bilingual population; the study assesses whether variance in bilinguals’ experimental performance can be explained by their fine-grained patterns of language use. Participants completed an auditory phoneme monitoring experiment in which they monitored the phonemic content of English picture names. Distracter phonemes from the Punjabi name of the pictures formed an experimental condition. Experimental data were complemented by interviews and surveys of language usage. Analysis explored for group-level differences between bilinguals and monolinguals and for whether fine-grained differences in patterns of language use within the bilingual group (indexed through survey data) were able to account for some of the variance in bilingual processing (evident in experimental data). Group-level results were inconclusive as to whether Punjabi representations were accessed during the experimental task, but variables based on differences in Punjabi usage among bilinguals were able to account for a third of the variance in bilingual processing, in line with views of the language system as adaptive to external cues and requirements. Increased use of Punjabi in a number of usage measures was associated with the speed with which Punjabi distracter phonemes could be dismissed. The finding demonstrates that processing variance in bilinguals is not random but can arise at least partially from different usage patterns. In light of these results, the specificity and complexity of fine-grained language use is argued to be under-explored in studies of activation states. The data indicate that even small pockets of out-of-norm usage for Punjabi may be associated with shifts in processing, suggesting that low-level encounters with Punjabi in an educational, neighbourhood or professional setting could be conjectured to have potential impact on its maintenance as a cognitively active language.
Supervisor: Rundblad, Gabriella ; Hohenstein, Jill Marni Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available