LINGUIST List 25.1295

Mon Mar 17 2014

Confs: Applied Linguistics, Language Acquisition/Netherlands

Editor for this issue: Xiyan Wang <>

Date: 17-Mar-2014
From: Robert Grimm <>
Subject: Workshop on Measuring Bilingual Proficiency
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Workshop on Measuring Bilingual Proficiency

Date: 17-Apr-2014 - 17-Apr-2014
Location: Utrecht, Netherlands
Contact: Robert Grimm
Contact Email: < click here to access email >
Meeting URL:

Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics; Language Acquisition

Meeting Description:

The goal of the workshop is to discuss issues relating to the construct bilingual proficiency and how best to measure it in a range of different bilingual/L2 populations (simultaneous and sequential bilinguals, heritage language learners, bilingual learners with language impairments).

This workshop is a satellite anniversary event to EMLAR X organised by Elma Blom (Utrecht University) and Sharon Unsworth (Radboud University Nijmegen), with financial support from UiL OTS.

Date and time: Thursday, April 17 2014, 9.15 AM – 5 PM

Location: Drift 21, room 0.03, Utrecht University

Pre-registration: Participation is free, but space is limited and hence we kindly ask participants to register beforehand by sending an email to Robert Grimm at

Detailed programme:

Introduction + issues (organizers)

Norbert Francis (Northern Arizona University):
Proposal for a better understanding of subtractive bilingualism in language assessment

10.45-11:15 Break

Elin Thordardottir (McGill University):
How informative is monolingual assessment of bilingual children?

12:00-12:30 Discussion I

12.30-14.00 Lunch

Silvina Montrul (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign):
Dominance and proficiency in early and late adult bilingualism

Tanja Kupisch (University of Hamburg and Lund University):
Comparing adult bilinguals' proficiency in a minority and a majority language setting

15.30-16.00 Break

16.00-17.00 Discussion II

Proposal for a better understanding of subtractive bilingualism in language assessment
Norbert Francis (Northern Arizona University)

First language (L1) attrition is the subject of new research in the field of bilingualism studies. Also known as 'subtractive bilingualism' (contrasted to the so-called 'additive' type), an important confirmation of work in this area has been to recognize loss of L1 competence as a normal outcome of child second language learning. Worldwide, as schooling expands to include greater numbers of previously marginalized and excluded language-minority school-age children, the subtractive variant may even become, with time, more common. In language assessment, this circumstance presents challenges for practitioners, foremost among which is developing a clear framework for avoiding misinterpretation of testing results based on imprecise conceptions of deficient language ability, often categorized impressionistically as 'semilingualism.'

How informative is monolingual assessment of bilingual children?
Elin Thordardottir (McGill University)

A full evaluation of the language skills of a bilingual child needs to include assessment of both languages. However, in clinical (and research) work, such assessments are fairly rare. Difficulties are related to the lack of clinicians with the required language skills, lack of test materials and normative data across languages, and time restrictions. In light of these constraints, it is important to make maximal use of the assessment results that can be obtained. This talk will address how monolingual assessment data can be put to maximal use, in the identification of language impairment in bilingual children, in treatment decisions and assessment of the child's functioning in various situations.

Dominance and proficiency in early and late adult bilingualism
Silvina Montrul (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

In bilingualism, language dominance typically refers to the relative fluency, proficiency and degree of language use of each language. Although the concept of equal linguistic proficiency in the two languages is a possibility, the reality is that in most bilinguals one language is more dominant or stronger than the other either in terms of proficiency, degree of language use, or both. In this talk I make a distinction between dominance and proficiency, illustrating how these have been estimated and measured in representative research. I then turn to consider how proficiency and dominance have been assumed in most studies of unbalanced bilinguals whose family language is the weaker language (also known as heritage speakers in the United States), and actually measured in a few others. I will discuss why these measures, although not ideal, are important and necessary for research investigating the linguistic abilities of heritage speakers in their weaker language on the one hand, and for comparing the linguistic abilities of heritage speakers and second language learners, on the other. I will also show how these measures correlate with degree of language transfer from the stronger language and with other measures in these populations. Although measuring one or the two languages of bilinguals may contribute to the monolingual view of bilinguals (Grosjean 2008, Treffers-Daller 2010), I argue that measuring proficiency, and assessing language dominance more generally, is not only a crucial component of rigorous experimental research, but it also has uses and implications for educational and clinical practices.

Comparing adult bilinguals' proficiency in a minority and a majority language setting
Tanja Kupisch (Lunds Universitet/ Universität Hamburg)

This presentation is concerned with the measurement of relative language proficiency in 20 adult bilinguals all of whom have been exposed to two languages simultaneously from birth. Half of these grew up in France with German as a minority language, and half grew up in Germany with French as a minority language. Both groups comprise very fluent speakers of both languages only. The major research questions are (i) what single measure is the most faithful with respect to speakers' actual proficiency- differences between both languages; (ii) among several measures that are applied to the same data, which point in the same direction, and which give prima facie contradictory results (e.g., a relatively higher or lower proficiency rating in language B than in language A on measure Mn, but vice versa on measure Mn+1). Measures discussed include: gender marking, cloze tests, global accent, speech rate, and self-reported language preference. Here, the terms dominant and more proficient are used synonymously; both are defined generally with respect to the resemblance of the data to monolingual norms. We also briefly discuss problems arising for such definitions.

Page Updated: 17-Mar-2014