Aneta Pavlenko, "The Bilingual Mind And What It Tells Us about Language and Thought" (Cambridge UP, 2014)


Big ideas about language often ignore, or abstract away from, the individual's capacity to learn more than one language. In a world where the majority of human beings are bilingual, is this kind of idealization desirable? Is it useful, or necessary? Aneta Pavlenko's book The Bilingual Mind And What It Tells Us about Language and Thought (Cambridge University Press, 2014), covers a range of issues in the relationship between language and cognition, and its core thesis is that study of the monolingual mind in isolation is simply not enough to shed light on all aspects of the human mind. Drawing on a variety of sources, from traditional psycholinguistic experimental work to literary case studies and her own experience growing up as a bilingual, Professor Pavlenko debunks myths surrounding the so-called Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, and argues that even the coldly rational edifice of linguistic theory is shaped by the language backgrounds of the individual theorists involved. In this interview we discuss all of this and more, including some of the big questions that face twenty-first-century research into linguistic cognition.

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