Strand 4: Representation and treatment of the language in a “Lifespan” perspective (manager : T. Nazzi – LPP Paris 5)

Strand 4 was proposed to stimulate research and create new synergies in the domain of language processing, taking into account a lifespan perspective. It aims to construct bridges
between psycholinguistics, linguistics, and developmental psychology. While the strand is mostly concerned with studies on language acquisition, it also addresses issues related to
aging, and to language formation (in link with the study of creoles).

We study the acquisition of various aspects of language, in link with phonetic/phonological studies in Strand 1, morphological/syntactic studies in Strand 2, and more methodological aspects with Strand 7. These new collaborations have allowed new links between researchers
of U Paris 3, 5 and 7, who used different approaches to study related phenomena (e.g., between psycholinguists interested in early language perception and phoneticians interested in
adult productions).

The overall goal of our studies is to identify the constraints on the cortical development underlying language acquisition, the role of language-general properties, the role of the specific properties of the native language(s), and the dynamics of interactions between endogenous constraints of cortical development and environmental input. Several processing
levels (auditory, phonological, lexical, syntactic …) and their integration are explored, using various behavioral and imaging (ERPs, NIRS) techniques. A large range of populations are studied: typically-developing infants/children; adults; atypically-developing populations: deaf infants, preterms, infants with developmental disorders (dyslexia, Williams syndrome…).

Our research has produced very innovative findings. We have specified some of the early mechanisms involved in both auditory (from birth) and written (starting in elementary school) language acquisition, and have started charting their neural bases (using EEG and NIRS).

Promoting a crosslinguistic approach, our findings have important implications for models of language acquisition and processing. Our work also contributes to a better understanding of language acquisition and processing in bilinguals, specifying early advantages and links between the two linguistic systems. Our work bears on many languages (including non-European ones), with a special interest in (understudied) creoles.

Lastly, our work on atypical development specifies processing/representational deficits in these populations, a step in designing appropriate remediation techniques.

To give a few examples, our work has shown that some early processing biases (and their neural bases, as revealed by NIRS) implicated in prosodic processing are already modulated at birth by prenatal (monolingual versus bilingual) language experience. Studies on the determinants of dyslexia (within the framework of the allophonic theory) have led to
remediation devices available on smartphones. Work on the syntax of creoles have led to some of the early work on speech perception in creole-learners/speakers.

Since LabEx started, strand 4 has produced many publications (25 peer-reviewed articles and about 20 books chapters/ proceedings for 2016). Twelve graduate students and 7 postdocs have directly worked on projects within axe 4 along these years.

We have received several invited professors (Géraldine Legendre, Johns Hopkins University; Irene Vogel, University of Delaware; Barbara Höhle, Potsdam University), and sent/received graduate students to/from around the world.

With its work on language acquisition, bilingualism and populations with atypical development, our research has implications for education, the more positive perception of bilingualism, and medicine (specialized education/remediation).

The strand has been strongly implicated in actions of valorization towards the general public.