Physiological Indices of Bilingualism

R Chakraborty, L Goffman, A Smith


Bilingual speakers must acquire the linguistic parameters associated with their first (L1) and second (L2) languages as well as the articulatory movements used to attain language specific targets.  The major objective of this research was to understand how basic physiological mechanisms interact with age of L2 acquisition as well as phonological parameters specific to L1 and L2.  Twenty-one Bengali-English bilingual participants were classified into high, middle and low English proficiency groups. Lip and jaw movements were recorded while participants produced Bengali (L1) and English (L2) sentences.  One major finding was that, as has been demonstrated in speakers of English (Smith & Zelaznik, submitted), lip aperture (a higher level synergy) shows more spatiotemporal stability than does a single articulator (i.e., lower lip/jaw movement).  Thus, this hierarchical organization can be viewed as a more general universal, since it is maintained in a bilingual group of speakers whose first language is Bengali.  Further, in most cases, language proficiency did not influence spatiotemporal stability, suggesting that, for adult speakers, language characteristics of L2 generally do not perturb underlying movement control mechanisms, even when L1 accent is perceptually prominent.  Durations of movements did differ as a function of proficiency.