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Language embodiment and relativity: Evidence in Chinese-English bilinguals
January/14/2022 @ 12:00 - 15:00
Bangor University, Bangor, UK
As soon as we master a language, several of our cognitive abilities that do not readily require language to operate and are seemingly independent from it interact with language representations in a highly sophisticated fashion, reflecting the highly integrated nature of human cognition. Examples of such cognitive abilities are perception, attention, affective regulation, memory, reasoning, and decision making. Although it is intuitive that such cognitive functions continuously interact with language in many ways, there is a paucity of data regarding the nature of such interactions. The quest for data shedding light on these interactions is difficult, however, and experimental paradigms used in the past are often criticised due to insufficiently controlled materials and experimental tasks. For instance, language-based studies involving overt reports and questionnaires often fail to acknowledge that they cannot test cognitive effects beyond the realm of language, since all proceedings are language-mediated. Behavioural studies also regularly fail to establish the level of awareness involved in tasks which could strategically, and therefore artificially, involve language on a metacognitive level. Here, I will present data from a set of studies showcasing the intricate nature of language-cognition interaction in the human brain, and particularly that of bilingual individuals who have come to master a second language in life. I will show how some language representations acquired early in life (i.e., from the native language) are there for life, influencing human cognition in a wholly unconscious manner. I will also show how new representations acquired later in life (i.e., from a second language) compete with native language representations and influence cognition unconsciously and ubiquitously. In closing, I will attempt to assess the repercussions of our observations for linguistic relativity and embodied cognition theory.