Bilingualism is usually defined as the ability to hold a conventional discussion in two different languages. The majority of people in Europe are thus actually bilinguals. We are examining how the brain can manage two competitive languageand whether each of the languages share common representations.
Language selection in the bilingual brain
A major challenge in the field of bilingualism consists of unraveling the neural underpinnings of a bilingual speaker's ability to select and switch between languages depending on constantly changing environmental contexts. Because two competing linguistic systems cohabit in the brain of bilinguals, the vocabulary and syntax of the unused language have to be inhibited when bilinguals use their other language. Language selection performance depends on many factors that we controll or manipulate in our studies, with in particular: The first and second language proficiency, the age of acquisition of the second language, and the current linguistic context. In addition, we investigate whether the executive control processes involved in language selection share common neurophysiological substrates with those involved in processing non-verbal material.
Embodied cognition and bilingualism
A recent and fruitful line of research suggests that higher-order cognitive processes, such as abstract and conceptual thinking, attitude and belief formation or affective valence attribution, are grounded on sensorimotor and spatial processing. In other words, human cognition seems to be largely embodied. Everyday language, for instance, relies heavily on metaphorical borrowings from highly sensorimotor states as well as spatial appraisals, as this very sentence illustrates. The study of bilingual individuals allows us to investigate the scope and limits of such interactions between language, body and space. In particular, we are interested in whether it could be true, in a non-trivial sense, that bilinguals see the world differently whenever they activate their first or they second language.