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Understanding code-switched sentences and foreign-accented speech: Electrophysiological and behavioral evidence

Date: Friday, November 2, 2018

Time: 11:30-1:00pm

Location: BSB 121

Guest Speaker:  JANET VAN HELL

Bio: Janet van Hell is full professor of Psychology and Linguistics at the Pennsylvania State University. She is also co-Director of the Center for Language Science at Penn State ( She holds a secondary position as professor of Language Development and Second language learning at Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, in 1998. Her research focuses on second language learning and bilingualism as well as later language development in children with typical or atypical language development. She combines behavioral, neuropsychological, and linguistic techniques to study language development and language processing. Her work is supported by grants from, amongst others, the National Science Foundation and the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research.

Abstract: A unique feature of bilingual speech is that bilinguals often produce utterances that switch between languages, such as “And we reckoned Holland was too small voor ons[for us]. Codeswitching has been studied extensively in the field of linguistics, but an emergent body of psycholinguistic studies also seeks to examine the cognitive mechanisms associated with the comprehension and production of codeswitched sentences. These psycholinguistic studies show that switching between languages often incurs a measurable processing cost, even though codeswitchers typically report that switching occurs automatically and requires no cognitive effort. I will present a series of recent behavioral and EEG studies, using ERP and time-frequency analyses, that examined the neurocognitive mechanisms associated with the comprehension of written and spoken codeswitched sentences. I will also discuss evidence showing that switching direction (switching from the first language to the second language, or vice versa) and accented speech modulate switching costs when bilinguals listen to or read code-switched sentences. Together these studies attest to the value of integrating cross-disciplinary approaches to gain more insight into the neural, cognitive, and linguistic mechanisms of the comprehension of codeswitched sentences.