24. Synergies & confrontations: socio- and psycholinguistic, cognitive and neuroscientific approaches to bilingualism

history of ideas, neuroplasticity, adaptation, translanguaging, code switching

Thomas H. Bak, University of Edinburgh
Michał B. Paradowski, University of Warsaw

The theme of the ISB2021 “Bilingualism in Flux” can be interpreted as applying not only to our understanding and definitions of bilingualism per se but also to bilingualism research itself. One of the most fascinating aspects of this flux is the changing relation between different scientific disciplines contributing to bilingualism research. Around 1960, Wallace Lambert in Montreal pursued at the same time sociolinguistic and cognitive questions, exploring on one hand motivation and identity in language learning, on the other potential cognitive effects of bilingualism. The influence of static and deterministic modular models in the late 20th century was less conducive to an interdisciplinary dialogue. In a vision of language as autonomous and “informationally encapsulated”, sociolinguistic factors or individual differences were unlikely to be perceived as relevant. This changed gradually but profoundly around the turn of the century, as static modules gave way to dynamic networks, emphasising adaptation, functional reorganisation and lifelong neuroplasticity. Cognitive science and neuroscience extended its understanding of language and bilingualism to encompass not only genes and early exposure but also lifelong dynamic patterns of language use, influenced by the linguistic environment, social conventions and individual identities and preferences.

Modern bi- and multilingualism research, emphasising the importance of “bilingual experience” across the lifespan, brings together cognitive science, neuroscience and psycholinguistics with applied and sociolinguistics. An encounter of disciplines with different traditions, terminologies, methodologies and theoretical models can unearth unexpected synergies and insights, but also produce misunderstandings and controversies. Our thematic section will explore how the evolution of concepts (from “cognitive reserve” and “neuroplasticity” to “translanguaging” and “dense code switching”), methods (from neuropsychological single case studies to neuroimaging and quantification of language switching) and models (from “inhibitory control” to “adaptive control hypothesis”) impacts and meaningfully contributes to the dialogue between the different disciplines involved in bilingualism research.

This thematic section will bring together researchers who have contributed significantly to the development of the field, not only in terms of empirical data but also definition and delineation of central concepts and formation of theories. An introduction by Thomas H Bak, summarising the milestones in the history of ideas in this field, will be followed by contributions from Judy Kroll (University of California, Irvine), Marco Calabria (Universitat Aberta, Barcelona) and Li Wei (UCL, London), with the different strands integrated in a subsequent discussion led by Michal Paradowski.

  1. In praise of plurals: “executive function” versus “executive functions” and why this matters in bilingualism research, Thomas H Bak
  2. From bench to lab: the cognitive neuropsychology of bilingualism, Marco Calabria
  3. Bilingualism as a lens and a hotspot: What is controversial and what is not, Judith F Kroll
  4. The idea of Translanguaging and its implications for the neuroscience of bilingualism, Li Wei
  5. Bilingualism modulates metabolite concentrations in the healthy brain, Christos Pliatsikas, Vincent DeLuca, Sergio Pereira Soares, Toms Voits and Jason Rothman
  6. Structural and extralinguistic aspects of code-switching: Evidence from Papiamentu-Dutch auditory sentence matching, Luuk Suurmeijer, Maria del Carmen Parafita Couto and Marianne Gullberg
  7. Social effects on code-switch processing: A neural oscillation study, Aleksandra Tomić and Edith Kaan
  8. The power of discovery science: Articulating the research enterprise of bilingualism, Christian Navarro-Torres, Anne Beatty-Martínez, Judith Kroll and David Green
  9. Effects of different language switching habits on bilingual cognitive control, Xuran Han, Wei Li and Roberto Filippi
  10. Assessing Mentalizing among Bilinguals as a Result of Individual and Ecological Language Diversity, Mehrgol Tiv, Ethan Kutlu, Elisabeth O'Regan and Debra Titone