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Cognitive restructuring in the multilingual mind: motion event construal in Cantonese-English-Japanese multilingual speakers

Wang, Yi ORCID: 2020. Cognitive restructuring in the multilingual mind: motion event construal in Cantonese-English-Japanese multilingual speakers. PhD Thesis, University College London.

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Languages differ typologically in motion event encoding (Talmy, 2000). Furthermore, the cross-linguistic variations in expressions tend to modulate cognition in a dynamic and task-dependent manner (Slobin, 1996a; Wolff & Holmes, 2011). Although evidence shows that language-specific structures affect spatial cognition with L1 and L2 speakers, little is known about how multilinguals process spatial information during the course of L3 acquisition. The present study addresses the question whether, and to what extent, the acquisition of an L2-English (satellite-framed) in childhood and an L3-Japanese (verb-framed) in adulthood restructure L1-Cantonese-based (equipollent-framed) lexicalization and categorization patterns in processing spatial concepts when the target language is actively involved in the decision-making process. Participants (N=150) were Cantonese-English bilinguals, Cantonese-English-Japanese multilinguals, and monolingual controls (N=30 each). A cartoon-based test was specially designed for the study, with a verbal encoding and a triads-matching task. In verbalization, monolinguals were instructed and narrated ‘what happened’ in each stimulus in their native languages. Bi- and multilinguals were assigned to a monolingual and a bilingual context by manipulating immediate language use in their oral descriptions. Then participants were given a subsequent similarity judgment task where they needed to decide as soon as possible which alternate (manner- or path-oriented) was more similar to the target event. Their reaction time of decision-making was recorded. Results from monolinguals confirmed language-specific effect of semantic-conceptual structures on event conceptualization. Results from bi- and multilinguals demonstrated an ongoing restructuring from L1-based patterns towards the L2- or L3-based patterns in both event lexicalization and categorization regardless of the language context. And the degree of restructuring is modulated by the amount of language contact with the L2 and L3. The findings suggest that learning a language means internalizing a new way of thinking and provides positive evidence for cognitive restructuring of L1-based patterns within the frameworks of thinking-for-speaking and associative learning.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Published
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
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Last Modified: 13 Jun 2023 08:32

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