2. Japanese-English bilinguals in flux

attrition, referential choice, crosslinguistic influence, vocabulary, form similarity

Hideyui Taura, Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto
Satomi Mishina-Mori, Rikkyo University, Tokyo
Aya Kutsuki, Shoin Women’s University, Kobe

This thematic section will present three papers looking into the flux state of Japanese-English bilinguals from three angles – (1) progression and regression of linguistic proficiency and brain activation due to dominant language shift from one language community to another experienced by a bilingual high school returnee student, (2) cross-linguistic influence (CLI) on referent re-introduction in narratives by early bilingual teenagers, and (3) form similarity effects on vocabulary acquisition by preschoolers.
This proposal derives from our motive to present about what has been researched minimally to date – the flux state of non-adult bilinguals (preschoolers and teenagers) whose two languages are typologically distant from each other, that is, Japanese (a logographic language) and English (an alphabetical language).
The first paper explores how language attrition is mitigated when the attriter returns to the original linguistic milieu for a set amount of time. We tracked a Japanese-English returnee for five years, collecting linguistic and neuro-linguistic data annually to observe how her L2 English underwent attrition, starting at 14;04 (3 months after her return to Japan) until she turned 18;04. She re-visited an English-speaking environment for a year from 16;02 to 17;02. The preliminary results are two-fold in terms of re-residing effects – positive effects on sophisticated vocabulary selection, fluency, and less brain activation whereas writing skills remained static.
The second paper, drawing on narrative data collected from 12 early bilingual teenagers, tests the hypothesis that more interaction between the two languages should take place in referent re-introduction as it requires integration of more pragmatic information than referent maintenance. Preliminary analyses reveal that in Japanese, bilinguals used significantly more noun phrases than monolingual peers for referent re-introduction, but not for maintenance. In English, children used more pronouns than monolinguals in the same context. The results indicate that CLI mainly occurs in the re-introduction context, suggesting that contexts that involve more complex processing is more vulnerable to influence.
The third paper examines form similarity effect in the processing and acquisition of equivalent words in very young children who are simultaneously acquiring a pair of linguistically distant languages. A total of 12 children (24 to 36 months old) participated in the study. The data on children’s productive words in Japanese and English were collected using English and Japanese versions of CDIs answered by their parents. The percentages of productive form similar (FS) and content similar (CS) were compared both between the language groups and also within each group. It was found that bilingual group had more FS, and the monolingual group had more CS. Also, the bilingual group had more FS than CS, whereas the opposite trend was apparent for the monolingual group, suggesting the form similarity effect. This implies the existence of cognitive process that supports bilingual language acquisition.

  1. The ebb and flow of language proficiency and brain activation: A case study on a Japanese-English bilingual returnee, Hideyuki Taura and Amanda Taura
  2. Referent re-introduction as the locus of cross-linguistic influence: An investigation of referential choice in Japanese-English bilingual children, Satomi Mishina-Mori, Yuri Jody Yujobo and Yuki Nakano
  3. The form similarity effect in acquisition of vocabularies by Japanese-English bilingual children, Aya Kutsuki