Apples grow on noses: two languages – two minds?

Speaking a second language can change everything from problem-solving skills to personality. It is almost as if you are two people, says Catherine de Lange.

 

“Mon espirit paratage — My two minds”, appeared in The New Scientist of May 5th, 2012. Ms. de Lange compares monolingual and bilingual children. Washington Post has her article.

 

Ms. de Lange describes her testing children on syntax. Syntax is about the way we phrase our talk or writing.

 

Both monolinguals and bilinguals could see the mistake in phrases such as “apples growed on trees”, but differences arose when they considered nonsensical sentences such as “apples grow on noses”. The monolinguals, flummoxed by the silliness of the phrase, incorrectly reported an error, whereas the bilinguals gave the right answer, says Ms. de Lange. 

 

Monolingual or multilingual, children get to hear or read fairy tales. It does not matter, if the kid speaks one or more languages. It is important that the child comprehends the words, there was a fairy land, a long time ago, where apples grew on noses.

 

Children learn early that words can have more than one meaning. Figurative thinking does not disturb syntax. Whether in one or many languages ― but dependent on pragmatics ― we could or could not count any noses in picture 1. The Big Apple Corner in picture 2 only might have apples.

 

Language pragmatics deals with talk in context and work with ambiguity.

Noses

Picture 1. Is there even one nose in the picture, if we do not know what noses count?

Apples

Picture 2. Do apples grow square, if we have Big Apple Corners?

 

Thinking the science, the task was most probably deictically misconstrued. The children did not know what noses the talk was about, and thus if to tell the syntax or the pragmatics.

 

Ms. de Lange says she speaks English and French. If we were to follow Ms. de Lange and interpret her test results for a difference between monolingual versus multilingual mentality, we would risk un mal de tête, a headache.

We would have to imagine monolingual people as unable to take a figure of speech, and carrying shields instead of umbrellas, for heavy rain.

We would have to dread multilingual medics, fearing they would be the people to take cardiac cases for just a matter of opinion

Pain

Obviously and fortunately, no such headache naturally can come.

 

Further, both English and French have spoken and written forms. What we write as bread in English is un pain in French.

Boy eating bread

To a child, a test to neglect semantics might be un mal a l’oreille.

Word forms as bread or pain would not have to be in the test. Also in little children, brains entire work for language tasks.

 

Frontal lobes help keep the goal in mind. Temporal lobes tend to word sound, and occipital to word shape. Parietal lobes associate this all ― with the lexicon. Words for physical sensations and food are the basic vocabulary.

 

Ambiguity may provoke “surfing” the language form, especially if the limbic system would detect some emotional discord. When we ignore word sense, go asemantic, distinction between languages becomes much smaller. Pain or bread become mere forms, disagreeable to be mistaken in one language. The forms yet still might be singular or plural, dependent on syntax.

 

The “surfing” is not a developmental stage. Monolingual or multilingual, very young or more advanced in age, it is enough to learn to “surf”.

 

To work on syntax, we can use virtual or invented words ― regardless of age. Interestingly enough, we might get no “difference in mentality” between monolingual or multilingual people. We might not confirm Ms. de Lange results.

 

VIRTUAL WORDS2

Virtual words have an advantage. We can use them to exercise speech sounds without the flummoxing that verbal associations might bring.

 

[th] is the sound in mother;

[th] is the sound in father

[th] is the sound in brother;

[th] is the sound in … pother 😉

 

A car rolls, a doll dances, a troll hops, and a ball bounces. Toys are things. They can be phimos. Every phimo can bimo. Before long, a kid may tell easy if we are correct saying, The phimo bimo , or if we should say, The phimo bimoes.:)

 

Phimos can bimo.

Multilingualism is becoming an everyday thing in more and more countries and cultures. I like that.

 

I do not like bias about an ability to comprehend, speak, write, read, and communicate in more than one language. I do not like bias about people who speak one language, either. It is not true that monolingual people cannot take a figure of speech. On the other hand, it is not true that multilingualism makes one prone for nonsense.

 

The experiment by Ms. de Lange was biased. Multilingual kids were showed as disinterested in finding if something was real or true. Monolingual children were showed as unable to tell syntax.
 Multilingualism does not require a “different wit”.

 

Bread is always bread.

Multilingual people naturally “can surf”, and monolingual people naturally can learn to “surf”. Importantly, whether multilingual or monolingual, we would not “surf” for serious purposes. Work on syntax is better with virtual words, and then the number of languages might not matter at all. This is what I have for truly syntactic.

 

Another ethical and linguistic concern comes with Ms. de Lange reporting infant brain scans for experimental purposes. There is no way to obtain informed consent from an infant.

 

Read why I cannot see sense in such scans.

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