Course Title: Plenary F - The Impossibility of Monolingualism in the Mind of the Bilingual (Schmid)


Credit Hours: 1


Instructor(s) Monika S. Schmid


Monika S. Schmid, PhD
Head of Department of Language and Linguistics
University of Essex

Plenary F:


The Impossibility of Monolingualism in the Mind of the Bilingual

Abstract & Learning Objectives:

Bilinguals are different from monolinguals in that they can never elect to speak, process and comprehend only one language at a time. Even when there are no obvious intrusions from another language, such as a foreign accent, code-switched words or grammatical structures, language use is always to some degree underpinned by all of the languages represented in the mind of the speaker. While this means that second language acquisition can never be entirely 'targetlike' – assuming that the hypothetical target is set to the ideal and idealized monolingual – it also means that speakers with more than one language will be similarly 'non-targetlike' in their native language: there is increasing evidence to show that both beginning classroom L2 learners and experienced and proficient immersed L2 users use and process their native language in ways that are distinct from how 'true' monolinguals do it. These differences are cumulatively referred to as 'language attrition'. My talk will present some recent evidence on how native language processing can differ between monolinguals and multilinguals, and show both the scope and the limits of such crosslinguistic effects of language co-activation.


Upon conclusion of this course, learners will be able to:

  • Recite the characteristics, scope and limitations of the phenomenon of language attrition
  • Discuss recent developments in the field of bilingualism research
  • Critique theoretical models used to account for language attrition

Speaker Biography:

Dr. Monika S. Schmid is Head of Department of Language and Linguistics at the University of Essex. She obtained her PhD in English Linguistics in 2000 from the Heinrich-Heine Universität Düsseldorf. The topic of her thesis was First Language Attrition, Use and Maintenance: the case of German Jews in Anglophone Countries. She has since held positions at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and at the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen. Since September 2013 she has been a Professor of Linguistics at the University of Essex. Her work has focused on various aspects of first language attrition. She has published two monographs and edited several collected volumes and special issues of journals on this topic, most recently the Oxford Handbook of Language Attrition (2019). She has received funding from various sources, including the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, the Dutch National Science Foundation NWO and the Economics and Social Sciences Research Council (ESRC) for her work.