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Frederiksen: Sign Language & Bilingualism
February 28, 2022 @ 9:00 am - 10:30 am
Variation as a perspective on the interaction between language processing and cognition: Insights from sign language and bilingualism
Anne Therese Frederiksen, UC-Irvine
Languages are highly similar in how referring expressions are selected and resolved across discourse contexts. Recent findings, however, suggest that language processing may not always look the same across speakers and contexts. There is emerging evidence that language processing can be dynamically affected by involvement of non-linguistic cognitive processes, yet little is understood about how variation in language experience and language use shape this involvement and what its role is in processing referential cohesion.
In this presentation, I outline a program of research that exploits differences between the spoken and the signed modality as well as differences in language experience to inform theories of referential cohesion. The first part asks whether fundamental principles of pronoun processing hold for sign languages, given linguistic affordances that are sometimes drastically different from those in spoken languages. I present results from a study of pronoun interpretation in American Sign Language (ASL) showing that semantic-pragmatic cues known to affect pronoun interpretation in spoken languages similarly guide pronoun comprehension in ASL, evidence that such cues are critical not only across languages, but also across modalities.
The second part discusses findings suggesting that language experiences, such as bilingualism and an individual’s interactional contexts, shape the interface between language processing and cognition. I outline ongoing and future work on processing of referential cohesion that sits at the intersection of several current and emerging trends in language processing and bilingualism and exploits the unique language experiences of Deaf and hearing signers to gain insights into how language regulation needs and contexts of language use dynamically affect the interaction between language processing and cognition.
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