ProfessorJeanine Treffers-Daller fromUniversity of Reading was invited to give a talk entitled Language dominance in bilinguals: Acritical appraisal of the construct, its operationalization and measurement in the lecture hall of Center for Linguistics andApplied Linguistics on March 14th, 2016.
Professor Treffers-Daller started with the rationaleof defining language dominance. She argued that the concept is understudied andmerits more attention. One reason is that language dominance was found toinfluence bilinguals’ online performance in some language tasks (e.g.,translation priming) and that the lack of control on this variable can lead toconflicting results in pertinent studies.
Based on the pertinent literature, ProfessorTreffers-Daller held that language dominance should incorporate two components:language proficiency and the frequency of language use. To operationalize andmeasure language dominance, she pointed out several critical issues: thetask-specific, dynamic and continuous nature of the language dominance measure;the computation of the measurement scores; the comparability of the scoresacross different languages; the validation of the assessment tools. Inaddition, measuring language dominance at the lexical level is a preferablestarting point because lexical indices such as lexical diversity have beenfound to have an extensive impact on language processing. To illustrate herpoints, she introduced some tools of measuring language dominance in two of herstudies.
Lastly, based on the review on recent studies,Professor Treffers-Daller discussed the implications and future directions. Sheadvocated more research into the impact of the domain of language use, into therelation between dominance and frequency, and into multilinguals especiallythose residing outside the US and Western Europe.
Professor Treffers-Daller’s lecture has stimulateda lively discussion on the specification of the tasks assessing languagedominance, which is of great interest to the audience, and on the incorporationof this variable in different domains of linguistic studies (e.g., Pragmatics).Her insights into language dominance and relevant issues have enabled theaudience to have a deeper understanding of the complexity of multilingualism.