Research Articles (General Linguistics)

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    Is it time to reconsider the gold standard for nativelikeness in ERP studies on grammatical processing in a second language? A critical assessment based on qualitative individual differences
    (Oxford University Press, 2021-10-04) Freunberger, Dominik; Bylund, Emanuel; Abrahamsson, Niclas
    In most event-related potential (ERP) studies on the second language (L2) processing, the native speaker (L1) control group’s grand average ERP pattern serves as the ‘gold standard’ that the L2 group has to reach to be labeled ‘native-like’. This relies on the assumption that the grand average is representative of all or most individuals in a group. Recent research, however, has shown that there can be considerable systematic qualitative variability between individuals even in coherent L1 samples, especially in studies on morphosyntactic processing. We discuss how these qualitative individual differences can undermine previous findings from the gold standard paradigm, and critically assess the main ERP components used as markers for nativelike grammatical processing, namely the left-anterior negativity and the P600. We argue that qualitative variation reflects the dynamics characteristic of nativelike grammatical processing and propose a model for experimental designs that can capture these processing dynamics and, thereby, has the potential to provide a more fine-grained understanding of nativelike attainment in an L2.
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    Sociocultural factors affecting vocabulary development in young South African children
    (Frontiers Media SA, 2021-05-11) Southwood, Frenette, 1971-; White, Michelle J.; Brookes, Heather; Pascoe, Michelle; Ndhambi, Mikateko; Yalala, Sefela; Mahura, Olebeng; Mossmer, Martin; Oosthuizen, Helena; Brink, Nina; Alcock, Katie
    Sociocultural influences on the development of child language skills have been widely studied, but the majority of the research findings were generated in Northern contexts. The current crosslinguistic, multisite study is the first of its kind in South Africa, considering the influence of a range of individual and sociocultural factors on expressive vocabulary size of young children. Caregivers of toddlers aged 16 to 32 months acquiring Afrikaans (n = 110), isiXhosa (n = 115), South African English (n = 105), or Xitsonga (n = 98) as home language completed a family background questionnaire and the MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventory (CDI) about their children. Based on a revised version of Bronfenbrenner’s (1977) ecological systems theory, information was obtained from the family background questionnaire on individual factors (the child’s age and sex), microsystem-related factors (the number of other children and number of adults in the child’s household, maternal level of education, and SES), and exosystem-related factors (home language and geographic area, namely rural or urban). All sociocultural and individual factors combined explained 25% of the variance in expressive vocabulary size. Partial correlations between these sociocultural factors and the toddlers’ expressive vocabulary scores on 10 semantic domains yielded important insights into the impact of geographic area on the nature and size of children’s expressive vocabulary. Unlike in previous studies, maternal level of education and SES did not play a significant role in predicting children’s expressive vocabulary scores. These results indicate that there exists an interplay of sociocultural and individual influences on vocabulary development that requires a more complex ecological model of language development to understand the interaction between various sociocultural factors in diverse contexts.
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    Constituent order in Serbian sign language declarative clauses
    (Open Library of Humanities, 2021-04-07) Bajic, Dragana Raicevic; Vermeerbergen, Myriam; Schembri, Adam; Van Herreweghe, Mieke
    Constituent order can encode grammatical relations in a language. The visual-spatial modality imbues sign languages with characteristics such as simultaneity or the use of space which raise the question of the appropriate unit of analysis in constituent order studies. In this paper, we provide empirical evidence on the order of core constituents in elicited declarative clauses for non-reversible, reversible and locative states-of-affairs in Serbian Sign Language (SZJ). Forty (near-)native deaf SZJ signers, ranging in age between 18 and 70 years old, participated in the data-collection. We consider linguistic and social factors in 810 clauses elicited for the purposes of this study. Our findings suggest that SVO is a preferred order in non-locative clauses with two overtly expressed arguments, whilst GROUND-FIGURE-LOCATIVE RELATION is the most frequent pattern in locative clauses. We argue that our results provide some support for the claim that sign language discourse can be analysed in terms of constituent order in the clause, but that other strategies typical of the visual modality such as the simultaneous expression of core constituents, and manual and non-manual features, the use of space, core argument incorporation into the form of the verb and core argument omission, complicate the traditional notion of sequential constituent order clause as a central grammatical element in SZJ and, by extension, in other sign languages. Consequently, the description of relations between core constituents calls for careful consideration and analysis of different types of data as a way of gaining a clearer insight into the nature of a sign language.
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    Message in a bottle : scenic presentation of the unsayable
    (Oxford University Press, 2020-05-06) Busch, Brigitta
    Linguistic studies related to trauma are primarily interested in how traumatic events can be verbalized. This article, in contrast, focusses on ways of translating a traumatic experience into forms of symbolization that do not report on what happened but rather foreground the bodily and emotional sensations linked to (re)living such experiences. In discussing such forms of scenic presentation and condensation, I will build, inter alia, on Wittgenstein’s (1919/1997) distinction between saying and showing as well as on Langer’s (1948) distinction between discursive and presentational forms of meaning making. The close reading of a multimodal text authored by an eight-year-old schoolgirl in the context of a creative-writing activity allows us to identify poetic and artistic means that suggest a reading of the text as a ‘bottled message’ about intense feelings of fear and helplessness. In concluding I argue that Bruner’s (1986) dichotomous distinction between the paradigmatic and the narrative mode of meaning making needs to be extended by recognizing a third mode, which might be termed the presentational mode.
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    Language and trauma : an introduction
    (Oxford University Press, 2020-04-17) Busch, Brigitta; McNamara, Tim
    This paper introduces the conceptual framing of studies of trauma. It considers how, on the one hand, applied linguistics may contribute to this study, responding to the suggestion that trauma ‘can be best understood through plural, multi-disciplinary perspectives’ (Luckhurst 2008: 214), and, on the other hand, the extent to which linguistic studies of trauma can contribute to a better understanding of what Coupland and Coupland (1997: 117) have called ‘discourses of the unsayable’. It argues that the tools of linguistic analysis may be used to understand the role of language in how individuals may experience, recount, and potentially recover from psychological trauma, in personal, literary, and institutional contexts, as exemplified by the papers in this volume.