Language and cognition in monolinguals and bilinguals: a study of spontaneous and caused motion events in Korean and English
Park, Hae In
In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in the relationship between second language (L2) learning and linguistic relativity. As a result, research has been prolific in investigating (a) whether bilinguals of varying proficiency describe motion events in the L2 in accordance with their linguistic categories in the first language (L1), and (b) whether the knowledge of an additional language provokes a restructuring of their existing conceptual categories in the direction of the L2. While much effort has been expended on these two questions separately, there has been little effort to address them together in a single study.The present study compared verbal descriptions of motion events and categorization preferences for motion events of Korean-English bilinguals sampled at varying proficiency levels (N=80) against those of Korean and English monolinguals (N=15 each). The role of cross-linguistic differences in linguistic encoding patterns and non-linguistic categorization preferences was probed across conditions representing spontaneous motion and caused motion and for the event elements of manner, path, and cause. In addition, the sources of individual variation in the observed lexicalization and categorization patterns of the bilinguals were investigated.The linguistic evidence from the monolingual group demonstrated that monolinguals exhibited distinct encoding patterns depending on whether they spoke Korean or English. The monolingual categorizations followed language-specific patterns as Korean speakers categorized motion scenes by path, while English speakers did so by manner.The linguistic evidence from the bilingual group showed influence from both the L1 and L2, albeit in different areas. Korean-English bilinguals preferred to omit manner information in their L2 descriptions, which reflected the influence from the L1, but they also structured path and manner following preferred L2 encoding patterns. In addition, some linguistic patterns were identified which cannot be traced back to either L1 or L2 influence. With respect to their non-verbal performance, bilinguals’ categorization patterns followed L1-based patterns rather than L2-based patterns. The extent to which bilinguals employed L2 encoding patterns was largely modulated by various measures of L2 proficiency, whereas length of immersion experience in an L2-speaking country emerged as the only predictor of the bilingual speakers’ categorization patterns.
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