Bilingualism and Emotion 2

I just want to thank those of you who completed the questionnaire on bilingualism and emotion. There were 36 responses all together, and I’ll be giving a presentation about it tomorrow.

The information collected was very interesting, and wasn’t entirely what we expected. For example, the number of people who preferred to use their first language to express their deepest feelings and terms of endearment wasn’t as high as previous studies have found. What seemed to be more important was the context and how well people know each language.

I’m now collecting data for a study on colour vocabulary. This time I’m looking for bilingual speakers of any language, and monolingual English speakers. If you can help, please complete the questionnaire on this page.

[Update] – for various reasons I will only be collecting data about colour vocabulary from monolinguals online (the data from bilinguals will be collected offline). So if you consider yourself to be a monolingual speaker of English or another language, please complete the questionnaire.

Linguistic research

I did some research on grammatical gender for my bilingualism class today which was similar to the experiment I tried out here last week.

The victims participants were all native speakers of Welsh and we asked them to assign male or female voices to inanimate objects, some of which are usually associated with men – (beard, hammer, screwdriver); some are usually associated with women (brooch, dress, needle); while others are semantically neutral (clock, table, television). We were trying to see whether they would be guided by the semantic or Welsh grammatical gender, and in most cases they went with the semantic gender, except for the neutral objects, for which some of them followed the Welsh genders.

Apart from the assignment of genders, I found it interesting that most of the participants learnt Welsh first and only started learning English from the age of 4 or 5, i.e. when they started school. This is quite common in this part of Wales. We also asked them estimate the percentage of Welsh and English they use. Some said they use both languages equally, others use Welsh far more than English -up to 90% of the time.

Linguistics experiment

This is a little experiment I’ll be doing for my bilingualism class next week which I thought I’d try out on you first.

Imagine you’re making a cartoon featuring the things listed below as characters. Which ones would you assign a male voice to, and which ones would you assign a female voice to?

1. A rock 2. A tree 3. A river 4. A bear 5. A salmon 6. A boat

Could you also tell us your native language, and whether you speak any other languages fluently? If you do speak other languages, when did you acquire them, do you use them regularly, and would you consider yourself bilingual or multilingual?

Ambiguous images

Yesterday I did a bit of research for my Bilingualism class with a couple of classmates. It was the first time I’d done this kind of research so it was quite exciting.

The aim was to find out whether bilinguals were faster than monolinguals at seeing alternative interpretations of images like the ones below. The ability to switch between languages and to ignore irrelevant information is thought to be more developed in bilinguals.

We asked students and staff in the university, which was easier than going into town to try to find willing participants. Most of the people we asked were willing to help, which probably wouldn’t be the case in town.

We did find that the bilinguals were faster to see the two versions of the images, though nobody was able to see the second interpretation of the first image without clues. I saw a cowboy straight away, but it took me ages to see an old man, which some people saw as an old woman. Once you can see both versions, they seem so obvious that you wonder how you couldn’t see them at first. One person suggested that being left handed might also make you quicker to see the different versions of the images.

Here are the images we used:

Ambiguous images

What can you see for each one?