LINGUIST List 13.1918

Mon Jul 15 2002

Review: Psycholinguistics,Cenoz & Genessee (eds) 2001

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  1. Mitsuyo Sakamoto, Cenoz & Genessee (2001) Psycholinguistics: Trends in Bilingual Acquisition

Message 1: Cenoz & Genessee (2001) Psycholinguistics: Trends in Bilingual Acquisition

Date: Fri, 12 Jul 2002 19:32:17 +0000
From: Mitsuyo Sakamoto <msakamotuwo.ca>
Subject: Cenoz & Genessee (2001) Psycholinguistics: Trends in Bilingual Acquisition

Cenoz, Jasone and Fred Genesee, ed. (2001) Psycholinguistics: Trends
in Bilingual Acquisition.

John Benjamins, viii+288pp, Hardback, 1588110990, US$55.00,
Hardback, 902723471X, EUR 60.00
Trends in Language Acquisition Research Volume 1. 

Book Announcement on Linguist:
http://linguistlist.org/get-book.html?BookID=2390 

Mitsuyo Sakamoto, The University of Western Ontario 

OVERVIEW

This book is an official publication of the International Association
for the Study of Child Language (IASCL). This volume, dedicated to
issues pertaining to recent research on bilingualism, is the first in
a new series: "Trends in Language Acquisition Research".

The book begins with an introduction by the editors, Fred Genesee and
Jasone Cenoz, followed by nine chapters and a conclusion by Brian
MacWhinney. The book is described as diverse in terms of theoretical
and methodological approaches, the languages studied, as well as the
geographical and academic backgrounds of the contributors (p. vii).

The first chapter is entitled, "The simultaneous acquisition of two
first languages: Early and subsequent development of grammars" by
Jürgen Meisel. He examines the unitary language system hypothesis
(e.g., Volterra & Taeschner, 1978) by thoroughly reviewing and
synthesizing findings from extensive recent works pertaining to
language differentiation. His review leads him to ultimately reject
the unitary language system hypothesis, arguing in favour of the
autonomous language development hypothesis for young simultaneous
language learners.

The second chapter by Ludovica Serratrice focuses on the lead-lag
pattern in bilingual acquisition of verbal morphology. The hypothesis
examined here is that the verbal morphology of a language with rich
verbal inflections (in this case Italian) will emerge earlier than the
not-so-inflected language (i.e., English). However, the study reveals
that the strategy used by bilinguals to acquire these items is similar
for both languages.

The third chapter by Laura Bosch and Núria Sebastián-Gallés reports
on the speech discrimination of 4- to 5-month-old infants who are
exposed to Spanish and Catalan. The study shows how bilinguals, much
like their monolingual counterparts, are able to differentiate between
maternal and non-maternal languages. However, interestingly it was
found that the bilingual infants in the study required less time to
differentiate languages compared to the monolingual infants. For this
reason it is suggested that language-relevant acoustic abilities are
shaped very early in life for bilinguals.

The fourth chapter by Diane Poulin-Subois and Naomi Goodz also
examines the babblings of bilingual infants. Much like the comparative
studies of adult speakers of French and English (de Boysson-Bardies et
al. 1992), the infants also showed similar patterns in terms of
consonants produced, the stops in speech, and the frequency of
labials. The authors argue that the infants do differentiate languages
and babble in a dominant language.

The next chapter by Margareta Almgren and Itziar Idiazabal focuses on
the syntactic development of Basque-Spanish bilingual. The authors
found that the child's Spanish contained more imperfective and
perfective more prevalent in Basque, reflecting a similar pattern
found in adult input which the child received.

Elena Nicoladis examines the acquisition of first words by bilinguals
in a study focussing on a Portuguese-English bilingual child. The
child's interaction with his parents was video taped twice a week, and
his parents were requested to provide a weekly report on his
vocabulary acquisition. The study lasted for six month. It was found
that the child's early words were likely to come from ends of
utterances. The child was exposed to more English, and as the
researcher predicted, the child therefore produced more words in
English than in Portuguese words. The author then compares parental
input with the vocabulary produced by the infant. Despite the
occurrence of more nouns in English at the end of the utterances and
relatively the same frequency of nouns and verbs at the end of
utterances in Portuguese, the child interestingly displayed a similar
ratio of nouns in both English and Portuguese and likewise for the
verbs.

In chapter 7, Suzanne Quay provides an intriguing paper on early
trilingual development. Here, she gives an unique study involving the
child of an American mother and German father, all residing in Tokyo,
Japan. It was hypothesized that the child would produce more English
output as he spent most of his time with his English-speaking
mother. However, the child showed his preference for Japanese. Quay
attributes this to the socializing process of the child, whereby the
child's parents acknowledged the child's L3 output (in this case
Japanese) as valid and worthy dialogic contribution.

In the next chapter Elizabeth Lanza also focuses on parent-child
discourse. By introducing an English-Norwegian bilingual's interaction
with her parents as an example, Lanza depicts and categorizes various
discourse strategies parents use. The author argues how bilingual
children's linguistic development needs to be understood with respect
to process involved in their language socialization process.

Lian Comeau and Fred Genesee address the use of bilingual children's
use of repair strategies. They suggest that young bilingual children
are sensitive to the linguistic proficiency of others, and can adjust
their language use in accordance with their perception of the language
proficiency level of the interlocutor (p. 233). In order to examine
this hypothesis, they examined the strategies used by 18
French-English bilingual children between the ages of 3 and 5. The
researchers filmed the individual child's interaction with an
experimenter who only used the child's non-dominant language. Their
results showed that, overall, bilingual children are capable of
matching the language used by the experimenter, although a comparison
of the results indicates that the older children displayed
considerably less communication breakdowns than the younger
children. The children inferred the causes of the communication
breakdowns and amended their output accordingly without explicit
feedback given by the experimenter.

Finally, Brian MacWhinney provides a concluding chapter. He
delineates the groundbreaking research that has been conducted in the
area of early childhood language learning, specifically in the area of
language differentiation. He calls for a new vision of bilingualism by
bringing three different research traditions - sociolinguistics,
psycholinguistics, and infancy research - together. He suggests that a
bilingual child possesses two distinguishable, complex language
systems, and calls for further research to unveil the complex issues
involved in language processing.

EVALUATION

This book is an interesting collection of recent linguistic studies on
bilingual and trilingual language development. The overarching theme
of all of the studies is the notion of language differentiation and
role input plays in the simultaneous language acquisition of young
bilinguals. The book presents an appealing exploration of bilingualism
with respect to various language combinations (i.e., English-French,
English-Portuguese, English-German-Japanese, Basque-Spanish,
English-Norwegian) in different contexts. In particular, the notion of
language learning as a socialization process in which it is not so
much the quantity but rather the quality of input and input-in-context
is intriguing.

Unlike some works on bilingualism which focus on cognitive and
linguistic benefits unique to bilinguals per se, the focus of this
book is on the investigation into language processing, looking at
child bilingualism "as a way of further explicating the nature of
language learning, social interactions, and the human mind"
(p. 264). For this reason, this book might be of interest to not just
researchers in SLA and bilingualism but also those in the area of
first language acquisition.

Despite its appeal, however, I did not find the book to be as
"diverse" as the editors claimed it was. The methodological approach
taken in all studies is largely quantitative and micro, possibly
contributing to a one-sided view of the complex phenomenon of
bilingualism. For example, rich experiential, narrative accounts of
bilinguals and parents raising bilinguals, as well as the connection
between micro interaction and macro social structures, which would
have complemented the insights this book provides, are missing from
this book.

The book also focuses on the early bilingual development of infants
and children, which, although insightful, interesting, and
enlightening, can only provide the reader with a limited understanding
and appreciation of what learning two languages entails. In short,
this book only provides trends in bilingual acquisition involving
young bilinguals and studies involving adult and advanced bilinguals
are regrettably missing.

After reading this book, the notion of autonomous language development
in simultaneous language learning comes across as a sound argument,
but when we reexamine the issue in light of the notion of language
development as largely socio-domain-specific (Grosjean 1989: p. 6),
the argument for autonomous language development, where both languages
are claimed to follow the developmental path much like that of
monolinguals, needs to be questioned.

On a minor point, the book also caters to seasoned linguists as it
incorporates certain linguistic jargon and terminologies which would
be foreign to non- theoretical linguists. Therefore this book has a
particular audience in mind and is not meant as an introductory text
in bilingualism.

Then again, as the aim of the book is not necessarily to provide a
comprehensive view of bilingualism but rather to give an up to date,
in-depth account of early simultaneous language processing, it
successfully achieves its aim.

REFERENCES

de Boysson-Bardies, B.; Rough-Hellichius, L.; Durand, C.; Landberg,
I.; and Arao, F. (1992). "Material evidence of infant selection from
the target language: A cross linguistic phonemic study". In
Phonological Development: Models, Research, Implications, C. Ferguson,
L. Menn and C. Stoel Gammon (eds), 369-391. Timonium, MD: York Press.

Grosjean, F. (1989). Neurolinguists beware! The bilingual is not two
monolinguals in one person. Brain and Language, 36, 3-15.

Volterra, V. and Taeschner, T. (1978). "The acquisition and
development of language by bilingual children". Journal of Child
Language, 5: 311-326. 

ABOUT THE REVIEWER 

Mitsuyo Sakamoto is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Modern
Languages and Literatures at the University of Western Ontario,
Canada. Her areas of research interest are bilingualism and bilingual
education, specifically sociolinguistic aspects of language learning
and maintenance.
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