Factors of variation and their epistemological value: Heritage language bilingualism as a case in point
Professor Jason Rothman (PoLaR Lab, AcqVA Aurora Centre, University of Tromsø)
Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism (CeLM) talk
Wednesday 29 November 2023, 1.00pm – 2.30pm


While there is great conformity in the grammars of speakers of individual languages and a set of variables that underlie how/why this comes to be, there is also a spectrum of individual differences that defines linguistic performance and competence outcomes across all types of speakers (not only bi-/multi-lingual ones, but, yes, L1-dominant users as well). Moreover, recent research focusing on potential neurocognitive outcomes related to bi-/multilingualism  (cognitive behavorial performance and adaptations to brain structure and function) also display a spectrum of individual differences. In all cases individual differences are governed by unique subsets of dynamic variables calibrated to (opportunities for) dual/multiple language engagement. And while we do not fully understand the patterns, they are universally revealing, theoretically and practically relevant on multiple planes and, crucially, not random! The present talk will revolve around two central points falling out from the importance of better understanding the systematicity behind individual differences: (i) the determinism of various internal and external factors—as well as their interactions—contributing to language acquisition, processing and related effects on domain general cognition and brain adaptations and (ii) the problematizing of the utility, if not appropriateness, of default aggregate comparisons as the norm, especially in bi-multilingual research.