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Cognitive restructuring in the bilingual mind: motion event construal in early Cantonese–English bilinguals

  • YI WANG (a1) and LI WEI (a1)


Languages differ typologically in motion event encoding (Talmy, 2000). Furthermore, the cross-linguistic variations in lexicalization modulate cognition in a dynamic and task-dependent manner (Slobin, 1996a). This study aims to investigate whether early Cantonese–English bilinguals behave differently from monolinguals in each language when lexicalizing and categorizing voluntary motion in different language contexts. Specifically, monolinguals were instructed and narrated in their native languages. We assigned bilinguals to a monolingual and a bilingual context by manipulating immediate language use in their oral descriptions. Results from monolinguals suggested an effect of language on event conceptualization. However, results from bilinguals showed that their performances patterned with English monolinguals in both event lexicalization and conceptualization regardless of the language context. These findings indicate that early exposure to a second language has motivated speakers to converge to a single lexicalization pattern compatible for both languages. And the degree of convergence is modulated by the amount of language contact with each language. The study demonstrates that participants draw on their linguistic knowledge during the non-verbal task and provides evidence for L2-biased cognitive restructuring within the framework of thinking-for-speaking.


Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: Yi Wang, University College London, UCL Centre for Applied Linguistics, 20 Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AL, UK. E-mail:


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Cognitive restructuring in the bilingual mind: motion event construal in early Cantonese–English bilinguals

  • YI WANG (a1) and LI WEI (a1)


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