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The effect of language mode on motion event descriptions in German–French bilinguals*

<span class='sc'>abstract</span>

When describing motion in space, speakers of French and German are known to show different preferences. In French, the verb typically encodes the path, whereas in German the manner in which the figure moves is mapped onto the verb. In this paper, this difference between the two languages is investigated, drawing on the data produced by forty participants. All participants are multilinguals, with German and French as their two strongest languages. They described fifty video clips in two sessions, once in monolingual and once in bilingual mode. The critical stimuli were always described in German in both language modes, the fillers in German in monolingual mode but in French in bilingual mode. The analyses of the manner and path verb uses show that, in a bilingual mode, speakers significantly converge towards the French model, that is, they reduce the preference for manner verbs and increase the proportion of path verbs.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Raphael Berthele, Plurilinguisme et langues étrangères, Rue de Rome 1, CH-1700 Fribourg/Freiburg, Switzerland. tel: +41263007140; e-mail:
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Many thanks to Letty Naigles for allowing us to use her stimulus materials. Thanks to Beatrice Zanoni, Claudia Horisberger, Elisabeth Paliot, and Lavinia Olariu for their great help with the data collection. Thanks to Elisabeth Dutton and Jan Vanhove and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper.

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