MCLS Online April 22, 2022 — Linguistic influences on numerical cognition

Presenters: Ilse Coolen, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, LaPsyDÉ, Université de Paris, France Ann Dowker, University Research Lecturer, University of Oxford, UK Ilaria Berteletti, Assistant Professor, Gallaudet University, USA Discussant: Hans-Christoph Nürk, Professor, University of Tübingen, Germany There has been increasing interest…

MCLS Online April 22, 2022 -- Linguistic influences on numerical cognition

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Presenters:
Ilse Coolen, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, LaPsyDÉ, Université de Paris, France
Ann Dowker, University Research Lecturer, University of Oxford, UK
Ilaria Berteletti, Assistant Professor, Gallaudet University, USA

Discussant: Hans-Christoph Nürk, Professor, University of Tübingen, Germany

There has been increasing interest in the effects of language and counting system on number processing and arithmetic, and an increasing number of languages are being studied.

Ilse Coolen and colleagues are investigating two-digit number processing in different Europaean languages, with different counting system properties. In German; the order of the units and the decades is inverted in number words compared to number digits, e.g., 27: siebenundzwanzig). French does not have the inversion property, but has another characteristic feature: a partial base-20-system (e.g., soixante-dix-sept: 77 = 60 +17 rather than 70+7 as in the base-10 system. A magnitude comparison task between two-digit numbers and number words will be conducted and compared in a French (base-20-system), German (inversion property) and English (control) population. The researchers expect an influence from the inversion property in German, but not in French and English and a base-20 compatibility effect in French, but not in German and English.

Deia Ganayim and Ann Dowker studied two-digit number transcoding In Arabic, which has the inversion feature. Also two-digit numbers are read from right to left, opposite to the direction for reading and writing. Participants were primary school, junior-high, and high school pupils and higher education students, who spoke Arabic as their first language. They wrote two-digit numbers from dictation. The number categories were Teen Numbers; Identical Unit-Decade Numbers (e.g. 33, 44); Whole-Tens Numbers (e.g., 40, 50); and Remaining Two-Digit numbers (32, 61, 86, etc.). Primary school pupils but not older students used a units-first strategy for the more syntactically complex Remaining two-digit number category. All participant groups tended to use a decades-first strategy for the other number categories, but older students did so more consistently than the primary school pupils.

Almost all studies have been of people using spoken languages. Ilaria Berteletti presents a study in progress, of deaf adults have been exposed to American Sign Language (ASL) prior to age 2 and have used it as their primary language. Previous studies have indicated that deaf people tend to underperform in mathematics compared to their hearing peers. However, these studies have failed to consider age and quality of language exposure as an important factor contributing to the variability in their performance. The current study examines ASL users’ and hearing controls’ performance on tasks assessing numerical and arithmetical skills and their electrophysiological responses induced by different arithmetic operations (subtraction and multiplication) will be compared to those of hearing adults. Carefully controlling age of language exposure will make it possible to test whether deaf adult signers do or do not underperform in arithmetic when language exposure is taken into account.
Investigating electrophysiological responses to subtraction and multiplication problems will indicate whether these operations rely on the same neurocognitive processes in deaf adult signers and hearing adults.

The discussant for this symposium will be Prof. Hans-Christoph Nürk of the University of Tuebingen, Germany, who is a leading expert on linguistic influences on number processing and arithmetic and has carried out and led many cross-linguistic studies in this area.

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