Language learning in monolingual and bilingual populations: from sound to discourse

The question of language learning is addressed in several projects dealing with typically developing monolingual and bilingual populations. The shared goal is to describe and explain the learners’ linguistic trajectories in relation to biomechanical, cognitive and environmental constraints. Data from several age groups (acquiring their mother tongue(s) and/or a foreign language) are collected through various methodological designs (from natural audio-video recordings to EEG measurements).

Concerning first language acquisition, two development stages are extensively studied: the babbling and the first word stages. Concerning a later stage of linguistic development (children and adolescents) some studies are conducted in order to identify writing processes and to characterize writer profiles. Concerning second language acquisition, research is ongoing concerning the acquisition of L2 phonology by adult late learners and children who have recently arrived in France and who speak different first language(s). Finally, one project examines the role of the motor system in second language (L2) processing.

Embodied cognition: Motor Action, Language, Emotion, Enaction

Research conducted in ASLAN considers language as closely intertwined with the body and its interactions with the environment (e.g., Boulenger et al., 2012; Pulvermüller et al., 2014). Accordingly, the way we act with the world is assumed to shape our cognitive representations and affect language processing and use (see also the “Interacting Bodies” section). In this view, language is grounded in the brain systems for action, perception and emotions.

Interacting bodies

Research on interaction and social activity from a language sciences perspective is concerned with the analysis of spoken language in a given context. However, in line with recent theories on embodied language and embodied cognition, projects funded by ASLAN highlight how spoken language is produced in relation to how human bodies interact. Indeed, participants mobilize linguistic, corporeal, gestural and postural resources during human interaction to build meaning and to promote mutual understanding in a given situation. They also use the material resources that are available in their environment.

Whether in learning contexts (GEDECO, ISMAEL, ForLAN), medical contexts (IAA, MALICE, REMILAS, MILSA, Food in the hospital, THÉSÉE) or contexts mediated by technology (JouES!, ITAC, SENEC, JANUS), researchers analyzed interacting bodies. The large majority of this research was positioned within interactional linguistics frameworks (e.g. language use in real time human interaction)