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“Comparable Materials” Eva M. Fernández Queens College & Graduate Center, CUNY Bilingualism Research Group ● June 24, 2004.

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Presentation on theme: "“Comparable Materials” Eva M. Fernández Queens College & Graduate Center, CUNY Bilingualism Research Group ● June 24, 2004."— Presentation transcript:

1 “Comparable Materials” Eva M. Fernández Queens College & Graduate Center, CUNY Bilingualism Research Group ● June 24, 2004

2 Grosjean, 1998 Studying bilinguals: Methodological and conceptual issues. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 1, 131-149. “…some of the difficulties encountered by researchers could have been lessened, if not avoided, had close attention been paid to methodological and conceptual issues…” The issues: “…bilingual participants, language mode, stimuli, tasks as well as models of bilingual representation and processing.” (p. 131)

3 Today’s Approach Good Practices which should plausibly apply to:  studies of bilinguals and L2 speakers  cross-linguistic studies of monolinguals (alas, the over-represented minority!) Learning from examples of poor materials construction  studies of both bilinguals and monolinguals  mostly sentence-level issues

4 Participants Language history for Lx and Ly  Order and manner of acquisition  Frequency of use Stability and functions of Lx and Ly Language dominance Other potentially relevant biographical data  Socio-economics, education, handedness, sex, etc. Cutler, Mehler, Norris & Segui, 1991 The monolingual nature of speech segmentation by bilinguals. Cognitive Psychology, 24, 381-410.

5 Answering the “Neuro-surgery” Question N=77 Spanish/English Bilinguals SPANISH-DOMINANT ENGLISH-DOMINANT Fernández, 2000/2003

6 Language Mode and Tasks Given Lx as base language, activation of Ly differs based on language mode:  greater activation of Ly in bilingual mode Consequences for performance? Implications for task design and laboratory set-up? Source: Grosjean, 1998, p. 136

7 “Comparable Materials”, because… … we’re control freaks!  but what are the variables one needs to control for? But, seriously, we have a problem if materials in Lx and Ly aren’t comparable:  across studies  within a given study

8 E.g.: Homographs in Lx ~ Ly … but Variable Otherwise pays  [ pHeIz ]  V, 3 rd SG, PRES or N, infrequently in PL  more graphic neighbors lame  [ leIm ]  ADJ or V or infr N pays (“country”)  [ pei ]  N, SG, MASC  less graphic neighbors lame (“blade”)  [ lam ]  N Beauvillain & Grainger, 1987, as cited by Grosjean, 1998

9 “Comparable Materials” Means… Comparable structure Comparable felicity/naturalness Comparable degree of ambiguity or disambiguation And comparable anything else that might matter, as far as you know, based on existing research:  prosody? phonetic content?  word frequency? number of neighbors?  cognate status?  

10 Comparable Structure Doubly self-embedded sentences easier in Spanish than in English  … because Spanish speakers “do not need to process the whole clause at once, but can use relatively local cues to process the sentence” (p. 280) Hoover, 1992, JPR, 21-4, 275-299 The butcher the waiter the boxer helped killed warned the gypsy. El carnicero que el camarero que el boxeador ayudó mató avisó al gitano.

11 Comparable Structure? The bakers the electrician the teacher greeted amused kicked the lawyer. The bakers that the electrician that the teacher greeted amused kicked the lawyer. El dependiente que los actores que el químico encontró mataron escuchó al gitano. El dependiente que los actores que encontró el químico mataron escuchó al gitano. Hoover, 1992, JPR, 21-4, 275-299 40% 45% 85% 47%

12 Comparable Felicity / Naturalness … the nephew of the teacher who was in the Communist party … el sobrino del maestro que estaba en el partido comunista … the cup of sugar that fell on the floor … la taza de azúcar que se cayó al suelo … the suitcase of clothes that we use in the summer … la maleta de ropa que usamos en verano … the belt of leather that Pedro liked a lot … el cinturón de piel que le gusta a Pedro … the table of wood that John carved this Christmas … la mesa de madera que Juan serró estas navidades Gilboy, Sopena, Clifton & Frazier, 1995

13 Comparable Felicity / Naturalness Marginally grammatical items: To my sister they gave the lamp of alabaster that they polished until it looked like marble. A mi hermana le regalaron la lámpara de alabastro que pulieron hasta que pareciera mármol Items in Lx with proper names in Ly: Maria bought a belt made in Malaga. María compró un cinturón hecho en Málaga. Goofy items The father-confessor of the monk who prayed met the abbot. El padre-confesor del monje que rezaba conoció al abad.

14 Comparable Disambiguation The police arrested the sister of the handyman the brother of the nursemaid who recently gave birth to twins. La policía detuvo a la hermana del criado al hermano de la niñera que dio a luz recientemente a dos gemelos. SPANISH: preference for N1 disambiguation ENGLISH: no preference for either disambiguation Carreiras & Clifton, 1993

15 Comparable Disambiguation? … the daughter of the madman who was trying out new eye shadow. … el hijo de la loca que estaba probándose una nueva pintura de ojos. … the mother of the count who always wears flaming red lipstick. … la madre del conde que siempre se pinta los labios de rojo brillante. … the landlady of the businessman who was a sergeant in the reserves. … la casera del ejecutivo que fue sargento de la legión. … the bride of the prince who had been a football player in college. … la prometida del príncipe que había sido jugador de fútbol en el instituto. Carreiras & Clifton, 1993

16 Comparable Disambiguation? NO! Plausibility ratings for suspect v. unbiased materials: English (N=6) and Spanish (N=6) monolingual judges 5-point scale, 1 = “very plausible”, 5 = “very implausible” Two simplex versions of each sentence, read individually, and interspersed among other materials undergoing norming (Fernández, 2000/2003) Suspect Materials Presumably Unbiased Materials Implausible Predicate Plausible Predicate English2.371.151.08 Spanish3.601.331.56  1.23  0.18  0.48

17 Non-Comparable Reflexes of Aspects of the Grammar: Gender the daughter of the madman who looked at herself in the mirror the son of the madwoman who looked at herself in the mirror la hija del loco que se miró en el espejo [AMBIG!] la hija del loco que estaba sentada en el sofá el hijo de la loca que estaba sentada en el sofa the daughter of the madman who was sitting on the sofa [AMBIG!]

18 Non-Comparable Reflexes of Aspects of the Grammar: Prosody the daughter of the hostages who was crying the daughters of the hostage who was crying la hija de los rehenes que estaba llorando las hijas del rehén que estaba llorando PWd1 ′ PWd2 ′ PWd3 ′ PWd1 ′ PWd2 ′ PWd4 ′ lloraba PWd3 ′

19 Non-Comparable Lexical Items Mary had underlined the book that she read to her boyfriend. María había subrayado el libro que leyó a su novio. Mary read the book that she had underlined to her boyfriend. María leyó el libro que había subrayado a su novio.

20 And Comparable Everything Else An illustration: Fernández & Bradley choosing subset from superset of 32

21 Recommendations Become a theoretical linguist, OR Work with corpora (only kidding!)

22 Recommendations Don’t compare apples to naranjas (¡o peras!) Recycle and reuse existing stimulus sets Norm your stimuli Don’t be afraid to consult with experts Take your time when constructing items, and be prepared to replicate with a new item set Don’t translate! Write Lx/Ly items at the same time Stack the cards against your predictions Exploit existing sources of information

23 One Last Comment: Models Studying bilinguals permits examining cross- linguistic phenomena within participants  impossible to do with monolinguals!  and eliminating unwanted variance induced by culture, socio-economics, education, etc., likely to differ across two groups of monolinguals However, is there good reason to believe that bilinguals perform like monolinguals in tasks where language knowledge and language processing are at issue?

24 Language history questionnaires A copy of this presentation:

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