24.906J | Fall 2012 | Undergraduate

Linguistic Studies of Bilingualism


Assignment 1

In a short essay of approximately 500 words, tell me whether or not you agree with Einar Haugen’s definition of bilingualism.

Bilingualism…may be of all degrees of accomplishment, but it is understood here to begin at the point where the speaker of one language can produce complete, meaningful utterances in the other language. From here it may proceed through all possible gradations up to the kind of skill that enables a person to pass as a native in more than one linguistic environment.

In writing your essay, reflect upon your own experiences or that of others. Give examples where you can. If you do not agree with Haugen, propose another definition. You might even just partially agree with Haugen. Maybe the definition might be appropriate for some domains and not others. You might even want to consider the possibility that trying to define bilingualism is a complete waste of time. What constitutes complete, meaningful utterances? Think about your arguments and develop them by providing supporting evidence.

Assignment 2

Read the following article:

Holowka, Siobhan, Francoise Brosseau-Lapré, et al. “Semantic and Conceptual Knowledge Underlying Bilingual Babies’ First Signs and Words.” Language Learning 52, no. 2 (2002): 205–62.

For this assignment, consider the claim made by the authors with respect to how infants exposed to two languages acquire the meanings of words in their two languages. Consider the experimental evidence advanced to support their hypotheses.

Do you think that they have made their case? Does the experimental design provide an appropriate test for the hypothesis? If yes, why? If no, why not?

What do the results tell us about simultaneous acquisition of two languages with respect to the learning of word meaning?

Write a critical review of this study. Develop your arguments in a 2–4 page paper about 500–1000 words. If you have lots to say, you may go beyond the limits.

Assignment 3

Write a two-three page double-spaced paper (it can be longer if you want) developing the following two arguments:

  1. Apriori reasons why the learning of a new language(s) (sequential) after the age of 10 years, for example, might be a learning process distinct from that of the learning of a first language or two first languages.
  2. Apriori reasons why the learning of a new language after the age of 10 might not be a distinct learning process and in fact that it might be essentially the same process as first language acquisition.

While you will not be able to develop your arguments in great detail, given the length constraints of the paper, chose those 2–3 arguments for each position that are the most compelling to you. Focus on developing your conclusion section.

Have fun.

Note: Information for Assignments 4 and 5 is not available.

Course Info

Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments