Laura Babcock

2018 Visiting Research Fellow

Fellows Brussels Institute for Applied Linguistics (BIAL) Centre for Information, Documentation and Research on Brussels (BRIO) Education Language & Linguistics
  • Current position 2018 Visiting Research Fellow

Karolinska Institute, Sweden/ Autumn 2018/ Language control processes in multilinguals and simultaneous interpreters

Laura Babcock is a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Department of Neuroscience at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden. She received an MS in Linguistics from Georgetown University in Washington, DC, USA and a PhD in Neuroscience from the Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati (SISSA) in Trieste, Italy. Her research centers on how life experiences and expertise influence human cognition and brain structure. Drawing on her Linguistics background, Laura’s work often uses multilingualism as a model of life experience and simultaneous interpretation as a model of expertise

As a Brussels Centre for Urban Studies visiting research fellow, Laura will explore language control processes in multilinguals and simultaneous interpreters. As multilingualism becomes the norm in cities across the globe, the control of multiple languages has become a daily cognitive function for an increasing number of people. The cognitive processes involved in this control, however, are not fully understood. A recent theoretical account, the Adaptive Control Hypothesis, suggests that the cognitive processes involved in language control depend on how the languages are used. Thus, multilinguals who use only one language in any given situation likely rely on different cognitive processes to control their languages than multilinguals who engage in code-switching – the fluid use of multiple languages within a conversation.

In collaboration with researchers from the BIAL and BRIO groups, Laura will explore how language context, at both a global and local level, influences the language control processes employed. In doing so, she will provide much-needed empirical data to directly test the current predictions of the Adaptive Control Hypothesis. Further, she plans on extending these predictions to the unique language context of simultaneous interpretation. This process, which requires a person to attend to a stream of auditory input in one language and with a few seconds delay produce the same content in another language, places particular constraints on language control. The need to understand both languages, but only produce one situates simultaneous interpretation as a hybrid of the two above-mentioned contexts. By examining language control in professional interpreters, Laura expects to shed light on the processes involved and contribute to future models of the interpretation process. Further, she expects that these findings will be useful in the fields of education and healthcare.