Edited by Maialen Iraola Azpiroz, Shanley E.M. Allen, Kalliopi Katsika and Leigh Fernandez
[Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism 9:4/5] 2019
Bilingual reference production
A cognitive-computational account
We investigate reference production in bilingual children. Based on Kibrik (2011), we analyze the production of referring expressions in discourse in terms of activation of a referent. We propose a novel approach, which calculates activation by taking into account different activation-lending factors and their respective weight. This allows us to compare the activation encoded by referring expressions across languages and groups of speakers, and to run correlational analyses with the speakers’ cognitive profiles. In particular, the study addresses the correlation between activation and lexical processing among bilinguals, based on the distribution of referring expressions in narratives by 20 German-Greek bilingual children, compared to their monolingual peers. We found that bilingual pronouns correspond to a lower activation than monolingual ones. Speed of lexical retrieval is a predictor of the bilingual performance. Our model of analysis accounts for how reference production varies across individuals and which cognitive mechanisms underlie this variation.