Speaker: Dr Krista Byers-Heinlein (Concordia University)
Abstract: Many children around the world grow up bi/multilingual, acquiring two or more languages from early in life. The specifics of multilingual language environments vary enormously from child to child, and it is important to understand how this variation affects children’s acquisition of their languages. This talk will examine the role of language quantity and language quality in language acquisition, focusing on children aged 0-5. To understand the role of quantity, I will present evidence that infants and toddlers are attuned to the amount that they hear each of their languages, including studies on in speech perception, online word comprehension, and vocabulary development in both bilinguals and trilinguals. To understand the role of language quality, I will focus on how exposure to code-switching affects language acquisition, including naturalistic studies of the types of code-switched utterances that parents produce, and laboratory studies on how code-switched sentences are processed by bilingual toddlers. The talk will conclude with a discussion of how a better understanding of language exposure in early multilingual development can inform both policy and practice.