Cross-Modal Syntactic Transfer in Bimodal Bilinguals

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Bimodal bilinguals are fluent in a spoken and a signed language. Previous research has proven that both languages in the bilingual mind are simultaneously active and that one language can influence the other (i.e. transfer). When speaking, unimodal bilinguals increasingly use elements from both of their languages. Bimodal bilinguals are able to use elements from sign language such as co-speech gestures and code-blends. Occasionally, elements from sign language intrude their speech due to co-activation of a signed language. However, less is known about cross-modal transfer (i.e. from the sign modality to the speech modality). This study aims to investigate whether sign language influences speech on the syntactic level as a consequence of co-activation in bimodal bilinguals. The speech of twenty one native NGT- Dutch bimodal bilinguals and twenty non-signing Dutch speakers will be analysed when describing spatial relations between objects. The utterances of the bimodal bilinguals were compared to the non-signing participants and were coded for word order (i.e. object mention). Additionally, a within-group analysis of the bimodal bilingual participants was conducted to investigate whether there are correlations between the spoken utterance and the use of code-blends. The results of this study show that the bimodal bilinguals differ from the non-signing participants in the way they talk about spatial relations due to the unique way this is encoded in sign language. The results also point towards a correlation between the use of code-blends and the way spatial relations are described in speech. Thus, language transfer may not just occur within a single modality, but may also occur across different language modalities
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