Credit: ILCB

Isabelle Darcy

Disciplines: Cognitive scienceLinguistics
Title and home institution: Professor, Université de l’Indiana (États-Unis), Département d’études des langues secondes
Category of Fellowship: Research residency
Chair: Language, communication and the brain – ILCB/Iméra Chair
Research program: Interdisciplinary Explorations
Residency length: September 2021 – June 2022

Research project

Learning to Forget? How Bilinguals Fine-Tune Their Mental Lexicon

Summary of the research project

The project to be conducted in collaboration with ILCB units focuses on the bilingual/multilingual mental lexicon. One challenge that bilinguals encounter when learning new words is to suppress the interference generated from their L1. L1 interference has been shown to affect nearly all aspects of L2 acquisition, from pronunciation (phonology) to grammar (syntax), and is also expressed in written forms (orthography). This proposal focuses on the interference from the L1 phonological system and the subsequent reduction of this interference on the phonolexical representations that bilinguals establish for L2 words. It seeks neurolinguistic (ERP) evidence via the N400 pseudoword effect to assess the precision and the evolution of bilinguals’ phonolexical representations over time.


I am a psycholinguist working on second language acquisition. My research focuses on second language phonology, with a particular emphasis on perception and lexical representations. In Indiana University’s Second Language Psycholinguistics Lab, which I founded in 2008, my students and I conduct research that aims to better understand the representations that learners create for the words and phonological units of a second language (L2), and how these representations change over time. We also examine the mechanisms of phonological processing in an L2, and the factors that facilitate it (for instance, suppression of interference from the first language). Finally, we address the application of these findings in pedagogical contexts, with the goal of helping learners modify their representations and streamline the processing of their new language, thus helping them communicate more easily in the second language.

I am currently professor of second language studies at Indiana University (USA). I previously worked at the Universities of Potsdam and Tübingen (Germany), after obtaining a Ph.D. in Linguistics and Cognitive Science jointly from the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris (France) and the Gutenberg University in Mainz (Germany). I served as Associate Editor for Applied Psycholinguistics from 2015 to 2018, and as an Editorial Board Member until 2020; in 2017 I co-edited a special issue of Frontiers in Psychology on the bilingual mental lexicon. My work has been published in Second Language ResearchLanguage LearningJournal of PhoneticsThe Mental Lexicon, and Bilingualism, Language and Cognition, among others.

Appels à candidature

Les résidences de recherche que propose l’Iméra, Institut d’études avancées (IEA) d’Aix-Marseille Université, s’adressent aux chercheurs confirmés – académiques, scientifiques et/ou artistes. Ces résidences de recherche sont distribuées sur quatre programmes (« Arts & sciences : savoirs indisciplinés », « Explorations interdisciplinaires », « Méditerranée » et « Utopies nécessaires »).