Dr. Debra Titone
McGill University

Friday, December 11th, 2020
Time: 1:00 pm via Zoom

Audience: All departments welcome
There will be a reception after the talk that will go on from 2:00-3:00pm

Quantifying how multilinguals differ and establishing what that means for language processing and cognition

An open question within the language and cognitive sciences, is whether bilingualism (or multilingualism) vs. monolingualism confers “advantages” beyond the realm of language and communication. Rather than directly confront this question, which may obscure more than it reveals (e.g., Baum & Titone, 2014; Titone et al. 2017), here I offer an alternative approach.

Specifically, I survey recent work from my lab that develops novel quantifications of the complex ways bilingual adults use language, socially or otherwise, and examines how those quantifications relate to language and neurocognition, among bilinguals. I first focus on the concept of language entropy (e.g., Gullifer & Titone, 2019; 2020), which we have argued flexibly quantifies a variety of sociolinguistic experiences using a variety of data, including (but not limited to) items from language history questionnaires that researchers often overlook. I then survey how we and others have used the concept of language entropy to predict various outcome measures of general language processing, executive control, and more recently, pragmatic aspects of language (e.g., Tiv, O’Regan, & Titone, submitted). I conclude by previewing new directions we are pursuing that incorporate other quantifications of bilingual language experience, specifically, those that rely on network science (e.g., Tiv, Gullifer, Feng, & Titone, 2020).

This work is ongoing, however, thus far we conclude that a more nuanced view of what it means to be bilingual across different people and social contexts, alongside new opportunities for quantifying these nuances, will lead to more valuable discoveries about the interdependence of language, neurocognition, and social experience.