Conference on Multilingualism in Ghent, Belgium
(Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences at Ghent University)
3 days, 1 symposium, 3 keynote speakers, 24 reports, 55 poster presentation, 1 dinner at a castle, lots of new acquaintances, and unforgettable experience. It’s been a real thrill to participate in the COM 2016. Three days were packed with exquisite content.
When I first came to the venue (http://www.com2016.ugent.be/index.htm ) I was really impressed as the Conference took place in a former 13th century Dominican friary. Even though the building was old, it was equipped with the latest technologies and had everything you need for the conference. The conference started with a symposium on cognitive effects of bilingualism, or, as I called it, the Scientific War, during which health and cognitive benefits of bilingualism (whether bilingualism prevents dementia and strokes), the influence of bilingualism on cognitive functioning (Social cognition and executive functions of bilinguals: A tale of chickens and eggs by Thomas Bak et al.) and even the question whether bilinguals are better lovers were discussed.
The next two days were full of different interesting reports and poster presentations. Most of all I remembered the presentations by Jon Andoni Duñabeitia, Basque Center on Cognition, Brain and Language, who talked about bilingual education in Basque country, and posed a question whether we should follow the one person-one language/one subject-one language approach; Nélia Alexandre, University of Lisbon, Portugal, who had a poster presentation on the determiner system in Cape Verde; Tamar H. Gollan, UC San Diego, USA, with a very interesting presentation on Spanish/English bilinguals in San-Diego and her hypothesis about free code switching and many others. All the presenters raised topical issues in bilingualism and proposed approaches that revitalized my perspective on my own work. I really enjoyed the chance to connect with people who are involved in the same field of study and whose expertise made them valuable conversation partners.
One of the highlights of the conference was a dinner at the Cravensteen Castle(Castle of the counts), which was built in the 12th century as the seat of the Counts of Flanders and later used as a courthouse and a prison. Today it is a museum and one of the best Belgian attractions. The organizers have arranged a little masquerade with crowns and garlands, which created a real royal atmosphere. During the dinner all the participants had a chance to discuss not only conference programme related issues but also share their views on the most acute topics of today’s world. I really enjoyed the conference and learnt a lot from the reports presented. The COM 2016 gave me a much needed boost to start on my PhD dissertation with the enthusiasm of a hungry wolf.
"I would also like to express my sincere gratitude to the coordinators and fellow participants of the Nordic Cooperation Programme who contributed a lot into the success of my own presentation at the conference".
Master’s Thesis Age of acquisition of linguistic structures as a differentiating criterion for monolinguals and bilinguals aims to investigate the effects of AoA on words processing in mental lexicon of monolingual and bilingual individuals. The Thesis consists of two parts: the first theoretical part describes the methodology and existing classifications of bilingualism (E.M. Vereshchagin, N.A. Zabelina, A.A. Zalevskaya, C. Baker, E. Bialystok, L. Bloomfield, F. Grosjean, K.Hakuta, S. Neimeier, C. Thierry), as well as gives an overview of the Russian and European works on bilingual mental lexicon (S. Gural, N. Zolotova, E. Sarkisova, J. Aitchison, A. Pavlenko, A. De Groot) and age of acquisition (C.M. Morrison, A.W. Ellis, B. Juhasz, M.J. Cortese, M. Brysbaert). Online course Introduction to Bilingualism of the University of Turku and Abo Academy also helped us to expand the methodological part of the Master's Thesis and integrate the study into international research context. According to the theoretical basis of the Thesis the bilingualism of the experimental group of students is considered as artificial, late, functional, successive and subordinate. In the second part of the Thesis a psycholinguistic experiment is described aimed at the study of AoA for particular word stimuli among monolinguals and bilinguals. For our experiment two questionnaires have been developed. One of them contained the words in English and the other one contained their Russian equivalents. The words were taken from a PPVT test. The questionnaires were given to students at the Faculty of Foreign Languages (TSU), all of them being coordinate bilinguals and to the British exchange students as monolinguals and native English speakers. The participants of the experiment were asked to define the age at which they learnt each word by indicating it on the given age scale. The data from both groups were analyzed applying correlation and cluster analysis. The results show enormous influence of the native language on the foreign one during word processing i.e. in Russian participants of the experiment AoA of the Russian words coincides with AoA of the words in English. Our findings dovetail perfectly with the idea of U. Weinreich, who believed that access to the meaning of the words of a foreign language in bilingual mental lexicon was only possible with the help of the words of the native language. Inasmuch as research devoted to the study of AoA in Russia is very scarce, the experiment described in the given Master’s Thesis is new and interesting. The author is willing to continue the study of bilingualism and age of acquisition effects employing E-prime and Eye tracker within the postgraduate programme.
The viva voce took place on 27 June 2016.
Coordinators, Lecturers and students of the Turku-Tomsk-Trondheim cooperation programme in cognitive and experimental linguistics would like to congratulate Alexandra Nabiulina and Alexandra Bub on their successful completion of Master programme at TSU.