You are invited to the Cognitive Science of Language lecture series organized by McMaster’s Department of Linguistics and Languages. The lecture will be delivered online by Dr. Veronica Whitford. Dr. Whitford is an Associate Professor and NSERC Canada Research Chair – Tier II in the Department of Psychology at the University of New Brunswick, located in the province’s capital: Fredericton. She received her PhD in Experimental Psychology from McGill University, and completed FQRNT- and NSERC-funded post-doctoral fellowships in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience at Western University, Harvard University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Before joining the University of New Brunswick, she was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Texas at El Paso. Her research employs behavioural techniques (such as eye-tracking) and neurophysiological techniques (such as EEG) to study monolingual, bilingual, and multilingual language processing across the lifespan, in various typically and atypically developing populations, with a specific focus on reading, including the cognitive and linguistic processes that support this skill. Please email email@example.com to request a link.
Title: The Earlier the Better: Word Age of Acquisition Effects on Bilingual Eye Movement Reading Behaviour Across the Lifespan
Abstract: Reading performance is central to academic success in childhood, socio-economic success in young/middle adulthood, and functional independence in late adulthood. Surprisingly, however, relatively little experimental reading research has focused on reading performance in the early and late stages of life, with the vast majority of studies focusing on monolingual young adult populations. As a result, much less is known about reading development in people from different language backgrounds, such as bilinguals. This work helps address this gap in the literature by employing eye movement recordings to examine reading performance for naturalistic texts in linguistically diverse (monolingual, bilingual) children, young adults, and older adults, as a function of a key yet understudied lexical property: word age of acquisition (word AoA; i.e., the age at which a word was learned). While many previous studies have focused on other key lexical properties, such as word length and word frequency, recent research suggests that word AoA may be an even stronger predictor of ease of word processing (Dirix & Duyck, 2017a, 2017b; Kuperman et al., 2012). Linear mixed-effects models revealed robust word AoA effects (i.e., greater processing difficulty for later-learned vs. earlier-learned words, evidenced by longer fixation durations) in all language and age groups. However, the magnitude was larger in bilinguals vs. monolinguals (and particularly during second-language vs. first-language reading among bilinguals); children vs. young adults; and older vs. younger adults. Taken together, these findings suggest that word AoA impacts reading behaviour, but especially under conditions of reduced lexical entrenchment (i.e., reduced ease of word processing): (1) when reading experience is divided between two languages; (2) when reading in a weaker, later-learned language; (2) when reading skills are still developing; and (3) when reading skills are impacted by age-related changes in sensory and neurocognitive processing.
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