Previously, researchers had disagreed over whether the age effect is due to language-specific neurobiological and maturational processes, or more general factors linked to cognitive development and the competition of two language systems in a bilingual mind. This project seeks to investigate this phenomenon.
Professor Schmid proposed that new insights can be gained by including first language attriters in the comparison - migrants who are primarily using their second language and whose first is deteriorating. These speakers acquired their first language without maturational constraints, but they experience the same impact of bilingualism and competition between languages as learners of second languages.
The project compared processing and production of grammatical gender in Dutch and German as:
Factors considered included the impact of age on acquisition/attrition among these groups. Grammatical processing was assessed through neuroimaging techniques (ERPs) and eye-tracking, while production data was based on free speech.