Investigations of bilingualism usually focus on the development of the second language (L2) and the way in which the pre-existing native language (L1) impacts on this process. In this course it will be shown that there is as much to be gained in terms of the understanding of the human language capacity by the changes that take place in the first language of speakers who become bilingual. In the first instance, theoretical models of language and language learning will be considered, and it will be discussed what predictions they make for language attrition. Secondly, we will focus on changes and developments that can be seen at different levels of language (phonetics, morphology, syntax, semantics) and to what extent extralinguistic factors, such as the age at which the speaker became bilingual or the amount of use s/he makes of the L1, can impact on the degree of attrition. We will then consider different research designs and elicitation strategies that are commonly used in language attrition research and show to what extent they are suitable for revealing the subtle processes that govern attrition.
The first half of this module will familiarize students with current research on language attrition. In the second half, we will focus on the research methods, experiments and designs commonly employed to study this topic. We will give consideration to how to arrive at specific research questions relating to attrition and how to find the best way to answer them.
It will give students an understanding of the kinds of changes that may happen in the first language of a bilingual as well as the factors which may accelerate or delay this process.
By the end of this module you will have an understanding of the way in which bilingual development and the acquisition of a new language can trigger often subtle changes to the native language. You will know
- how to study these effects
- what kinds of data to investigate for attrition at different levels of language processing and language use
- what experimental designs are appropriate to study different types of attrition effects
You will conduct a small-scale case study on data from a language attriter and present this in class. You will also design and describe a possible research project on a study of language attrition and present this by means of an in-class presentation and a project description (3,000 words).
- Module Supervisor: Monika Schmid