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Multilingualism seminar

The effect of bilingualism on the distribution of ASD/Language Policy in Luxembourg

4 May 2017, 13:00 – 14:30

Faculty of English, University of Cambridge, Room GR04

The effect of bilingualism on the distribution of ASD traits in a general sample of primary school children

by Draško Kašćelan, PhD student, Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics, University of Cambridge 

A body of research has shown that bilingualism leads to advantages in certain aspects of language, such as pragmatic skills (Siegal et al., 2010; Antoniou & Katsos, 2017), as well as in executive control skills, such as cognitive flexibility and working memory (for example, Bialystok, 2011; Hilchey & Klein, 2011). Alternatively, deficits in these skills seem to be constituent components of autism spectrum disorders (ASD; Landa & Goldberg, 2005; Bodner et al., 2015).

Recently, there has been some investigation of the effects of bilingualism on language and cognition in individuals diagnosed with ASD (see Uljarević et al., 2016). However, to our knowledge, no study has investigated the association between the prevalence of traits of ASD symptomatology and bilingualism in the general population. This is a topical question, given that an increasing proportion of the world’s population is bilingual, and every individual, including typically developing individuals, exhibits traits of ASD symptomatology to some (low or high) extent.

The current study examines a heterogeneous sample of 394 children in UK primary schools (of which 162 are bilinguals), age range 5 to 11 years, with the aim of answering the following two related but distinct research questions: (1) Is there a difference in the proportion of monolinguals and bilinguals among those with a high and those with a low level of ASD traits? (2) Do monolinguals and bilinguals differ in their levels of ASD traits? A parental questionnaire was used to determine language background of the participants; the level of ASD traits was measured with the Social Skills Improvements System Rating Scales (Gresham & Elliott, 2008). The current study presents the preliminary statistical analyses.


Language Policy in Luxembourg: Possibilities and Challenges

by Abhimanyu Sharma, PhD student, Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics, University of Cambridge 

This paper deals with the language policies of Luxembourg in the light of immigration and the multilingualism associated with it. Although Luxembourg might appear to be an ideal case of multilingualism with three official languages (Luxembourgish, French, and German), the reality is very different because its language policies are marked by a hierarchy: while Luxembourgish has the symbolic dominance as the ‘national language’, French is the preferred language in the workplace and administration. The situation has become complex due to the steady influx of immigrants since the 1970s. Currently, more than 40 percent of Luxembourg’s population consists of foreigners, and this has changed the linguistic situation in the sense that Portuguese has become the second most widely spoken language in Luxembourg, although it does not enjoy any legal safeguards. Taking account of this multilingual scenario, this paper examines the possibilities and challenges of multilingualism in Luxembourg and considers where the priorities of Luxembourg’s language policies should lie. On the one hand there is the need to protect Luxembourgish, which is the majority language in Luxembourg, but a minority language when compared to other national languages of Europe, while on the other hand the needs of its Portuguese-speaking community also have to be taken into account, since the use of German as the medium of instruction at primary level disadvantages them. Finally, the paper will also consider the role and the future of the other two main languages (French and German).

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Draško Kašćelan and Abhimanyu Sharma.

13:00 - 14:30


Room GR04, Faculty of English, 9 West Rd, Cambridge, CB3 9DP

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