Antonella Sorace, Professor of Developmental Linguistics, University of Edinburgh, will give a colloquium on Friday, October 9, titled “The ecology of L2 learning and L1 change in adult bilingualism.” The virtual colloquium begins at 4 PM.

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Recent research on adult bilingualism shows that selective aspects of grammar become variable in speakers experiencing native language (L1) attrition from learning a second language. I will first show that the structures affected involve “complex contingencies” (Phillips & Ehrenhofer 2015) that require efficient integration of information across (syntactic, pragmatic and contextual) domains. These are the same structures that remain variable even in highly proficient non-native (L2) speakers of the same language (Sorace 2011, 2016). I will then consider various factors that may play a role in these phenomena, including cross-linguistic effects, the cognitive costs of handling two languages, and the role of over-expliciteness. I will finally point to the possibility that L1 change and L2 acquisition may be functionally related in active proficient bilinguals. I will conclude that L1 attrition is a natural consequence of language contact, first in the bilingual brain and then in bilingual communities, which may eventually lead to language change. Understanding the big picture requires interdisciplinary research on different facets of bilingualism that combines the strengths of both linguistic and cognitive models.