The Comparative Psycholinguistics of Multilingualism
Our goal is to understand how children and adults learn language and how our brain/mind represents and processes language.
We address the following research question: Which factors modulate the acquisition, representation and processing of knowledge of language in bi- and multilinguals?
We aim to elucidate how multiple languages interact in the multilingual mind to understand how people navigate different languages and linguistic repertoires in different contexts. Moreover, we study language use in real time in order to understand interactions between language learning and processing. We do research in the following areas:
We study how monolingual and bilingual children and adults acquire the morphosyntax of English and/or German and how child acquisition compares to adult learning in different naturalistic and classroom contexts. We study how bilingual children learn to separate the two languages they acquire and the factors that cause morphosyntactic and lexical language mixing.
Acquisition and processing of case and gender in L2 German by L1 English learners (Hopp)
Code-mixing in German-English bilingual children and adults (Comes-Koch)
We study how the acquisition of English as a second language (L2) compares to the acquisition of English as an L3 in children and adults in order to find out whether the L1 or the L2 affect further languages in differential ways (cross-linguistic influence).
Sprachliche und kognitive Ressourcen der Mehrsprachigkeit im Englischerwerb in der Grundschule (MEG-SKoRe; mit Dieter Thoma & Rosemarie Tracy, Mannheim)
We study how bilingual and L2 learners acquire and process grammatical knowledge in and across different domains of language (e.g. phonetics, phonology, morphology, lexicon, syntax, semantics, pragmatics). We are particularly interested in how bilinguals and multilinguals segment the speech stream (phonology), break down words into smaller parts (morphology),build sentence structure (syntax) in real-time language processing, and interpret the meaning of the utterances (semantics/pragmatics).
Speech perception and processing under adverse conditions (Carroll)
Phonological processing (rhythm, intonation) in the L2 (Carroll)
Speech stream segmentation in ab initio learners of English and German (Von Holzen; Ini-Seg)
Morphological processing: inflection, derivation and compounding (Heyer)
Morpho-graphic regularities: Reflections of morphological structure in spelling (Heyer)
Predictive processing in L2 learners (Hopp; Safak)
Individual differences in grammatical L2 processing (Hopp) and in L2 speech processing (Carroll)
We study cross-linguistic influences in multilingual speakers and how knowledge and use of more than one language affects metalinguistic awareness and cognitive processing. In a joint project with the University of Mannheim (MEG-SkoRE; 2014-2020), we investigate whether early multilingualism provides any general (cognitive) benefits in English language acquisition in primary school and/or whether specific language structures and features of the first and second languages transfer into English. The Ini-Seg project Ini-Seg) examines how knowledge of language and cognitive skills interact in shaping children’s capacity to learn a foreign language.
Sprachliche und kognitive Ressourcen der Mehrsprachigkeit im Englischerwerb in der Grundschule (MEG-SKoRe (2014-2020))
How variation in verbal and cognitive skills influence schoolchildren's initial processing of English (Ini-Seg)
We study how instruction, teaching, and input can change the implicit processing of grammatical knowledge in child and adult L2 learners. In a joint project with the TU Dortmund (Prof. Schimke), we study how language processing drives language learning (CoLeaP). In a DFG-funded project, we investigate how bilinguals adapt their grammatical processing to changes in the input and whether these processing mechanisms are related to historical language change (SILPAC).
From a broader perspective, we study how language ideologies and language policies influence speaker practices and learner motivation among mono-, bi- and multilinguals. We examine traditional contexts where a national language dominates, such as the education system, but where other languages are also present. We also consider contexts of dynamic multilingualism where speakers and learners of several different languages come into contact, for instance in global cities or in digital domains.
Language policies and language identities in Ireland and the UK (McMonagle)
Multilingualism and multiliteracies online (McMonagle)
In our department, we use different types of methods, combining qualitative and quantitative analyses. In our eye-tracking lab, we have a state-of-the art remote and portable eye-tracker. In eye-tracking, participants read sentences or look at pictures while listening to language. A camera records their eye-movements up to 500 times a second in order to measure how they understand language. We also have several reaction-time computers, on which we run experiments about real-time language comprehension and production (e.g. lexical decision, priming, self-paced reading, etc.). We also use questionnaires, on-line surveys and speech and language recordings to analyse language acquisition and processing. Our experimental work links up with corpus work, and we have a rich collection of language (learning) corpora on English and German.
We place a great emphasis on students' participation in research. Our teaching is research-driven, and students get involved in research in the department, and they design their own research projects for their finals' theses.
English Linguistics in the TU context
As an Institute of Technology, the TU Braunschweig places its emphasis on technology and related disciplines such as engineering and natural sciences. The Faculty of Humanities and Educational Sciences integrates into the overall TU profile. In English Linguistics, our experimental research uses state-of-the-art technology and is based on quantitative and qualitative methods of empirical research. We use technical methods of data collection and statistical data analysis. We encourage and value exchange and dialogue across disciplines, as is also evident in our participation in the interdisciplinary Master's programme "Kultur der technisch-wissenschaftlichen Welt" (Culture of the Technological and Scientific World).
The department and our team have collaborations with many partners in the US, the UK, the Netherlands and other countries. We are a member of the international PIRE network (http://www.psu.edu/dept/cls/pire), in which many international partners collaborate. We regularly host visiting (graduate) students from Pennsylvania State University (USA) and other places, and we can send our students to our international partner institutions.