Invited lecturers at the Department of Languages, Linguistics and Literature

The department of Languages, Linguistics, and Literature cordially invites you to attend the following very special lectures:

“What Defines Language Dominance in Bilinguals?”

by Professor Jeanine Treffers-Daller (University of Reading) 

Wed. Nov. 28th 10:30 Room 8105


“Language Dominance in Bilinguals with Structural Different Language Pairs (Kazakh, Turkish, and English)”

by Professor Michael Daller (University of Reading) 

Thur. Nov. 29th 11:00 Room 8105

For more information, see the abstracts appended below. We look forward to seeing you there!

“What defines language dominance in bilinguals?” – Jeanine Treffers-Daller
This paper focuses on the construct of language dominance in bilinguals and the ways in which this construct has been operationalized. Language dominance is often seen as relative proficiency in two languages, but it can also be analyzed in terms of language use—that is, how frequently bilinguals use their languages and how these are divided across domains. Assessing language dominance is important because it has become clear that the level of bilinguals’ proficiency in each language as well as the relative strength of each language affect performance on tasks A key distinction is made between direct measures of language dominance, which assess an aspect of language proficiency (e.g., vocabulary or grammar), and indirect ones, which measure variability in exposure to different languages and bilinguals’ use of them. The paper includes an evaluation of the extent to which the latter can be interpreted as a proxy for the former. I will also discuss the issue of “balance” in bilinguals and how this can be measured, and what we know about dominance in multilinguals.

“Language dominance in bilinguals with structural different language pairs: Kazakh, Turkish and English”  – Michael Daller

The two or more languages of bilinguals are related, but this relation and a possible operationalisation of language dominance is difficult with structural different language pairs (see Daller et al. 2011). In the present paper I will discuss two possible theoretical frameworks on the relation between the proficiency of bilinguals in these language pairs and I will present findings of two recent studies on this question. The first study (Daller and Ongun, 2017) investigates the vocabulary knowledge of 100 Turkish-English bilinguals in the UK (age 9 – 11) against the The Common Underlying Proficiency Theory (CUP; for an overview see Cummins 1991), which assumes that the proficiency of bilinguals is related in both languages. The findings of this study clearly show that the Turkish and the English receptive, and to a lesser extend the productive vocabulary, are related and that parental support for L1 (Turkish) is beneficial for the vocabulary of the children in both language. The language dominance of the children changes over time from Turkish as the dominant language in primary school children to English as the dominant language in early secondary school children. The second study (Daller and Mazhikov, in preparation) investigates two competing frameworks: the CUP and the Cognate Facilitation Effect (Costa, Caramazza & Sebastián-Gallés, 2000). Vocabulary measures with 30 young adult Kazakh, Russian and English multilinguals show that there is a strong correlation between the Russian and English vocabulary of the participants (with many cognates between them), but not between their Kazak vocabulary and the other two languages. The bilinguals in this study were exposed to Russian and Kazakh from early on and learned English only at school. Our findings are a clear indication that the role of cognates plays a more dominant role in bilingual language dominance than a possible Common Underlying Proficiency of languages that were learned first together. At the time of the investigation no frequency lists of the Kazakh vocabulary were available to the researchers. Follow-up studies with frequency lists of Kazakh vocabulary will allow to draw a more fine-grained picture of language dominance in bilinguals with these language pairs.