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Poster E67, Friday, November 10, 10:00 – 11:15 am, Harborview and Loch Raven Ballrooms

How experience with different prosodies shapes the bilingual brain: preliminary connectivity analyses from English-French bilinguals.

Annie Gilbert1,2, Shanna Kousaie1,2,3, Max Wolpert1,2, Denise Klein1,2,3, Shari R. Baum1,2;1Centre for Research on Brain, Language, and Music, Canada, 2McGill University, Canada, 3Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, Canada

A growing body of literature demonstrates that different bilingual experiences (for example, learning two languages from birth vs learning a second language as an adult, or learning different language pairs) will not only lead to different behavioral outcomes (i.e. proficiency differences), but will also have an impact on brain structures (Klein, Mok, Chen & Watkins, 2014, Kousaie, Chai, Sander & Klein, accepted). The goal of the present study is to investigate this behaviour-brain relationship in bilinguals by examining speakers’ production of specific prosodic parameters, and how this ability might be related to brain connectivity patterns. Our previous behavioural work examining the production of prosodic cues by bilingual English-French speakers revealed that speakers who are dominant in English (more proficient in English compared to French) produce different duration patterns than speakers not dominant in English (French-dominant or balanced bilingual speakers). Using a semi-spontaneous production task, we demonstrated that English-dominant speakers produce different lengthening durations for lexical stress and phrase final lengthening (with non-stressed phrase final syllables being on average slightly longer than non-final stressed syllables), whereas non-English dominant speakers tend to produce syllables with the same duration in both cases (Gilbert, Wolpert, Kousaie & Baum, 2017). This difference might be caused by the absence of lexically-coded prosody in French, meaning that French speakers have no (or limited) experience in controlling prosody at the lexical and phrasal level simultaneously, which not only contributes to a perceived foreign accent, but may even render speech hard to interpret and yield ambiguities in their English production. A subset of 16 participants from the above cited experiment also completed a resting-state functional magnetic imaging scan (rs-fMRI) to examine brain connectivity associated with the observed duration production results. The rs-fMRI data were analyzed using a seed-to-voxel approach. Seed regions were selected from Domahs et al. (2013), who identified brain regions involved in lexical stress processing (mainly the left and right superior temporal gyri - STG). Preliminary analyses show that speakers’ modulation of the duration parameter can predict the connectivity between the bilateral STG and other brain regions, including regions related to language processing and motor control. One finding of particular interest is the observed connectivity between the left and right STG and the bilateral supplementary motor area (SMA). The production of duration modulations was correlated with the strength of connectivity between both the left and right STG seeds and the bilateral SMA. That is, participants with the most native-like syllable durations in English sentence production showed the strongest connectivity between these regions, whereas participants who were not producing different duration patterns for stress and phrase boundaries had weaker connectivity between the same brain regions. These results support the idea that not only general bilingual experience, but also the specific languages involved may have an impact on both behaviour and functional brain connectivity. Further analyses are in progress to explore connectivity across additional brain regions associated with prosodic production.

Topic Area: Multilingualism

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