Antonella Sorace is an Italian-born experimental linguist and Professor of Developmental Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. Her research is interdisciplinary and focuses on a number of interrelated questions that bring together linguistics, experimental psychology and cognitive science. Her main research area is bilingualism over the lifespan, where she has worked on exceptionally talented ("near-native") adult second language learners; on the changes ("attrition") that take place in the native language of advanced second language speakers; on bilingual language development in early and late childhood; and on the mutual effects of bilingualism and general cognition. In the past 10 years she has become strongly committed to disseminating the findings of research on bilingualism outside academia. She is the founding director of the research and information center Bilingualism Matters, which aims to bridge the gap between research on multilingualism and communities. Bilingualism Matters now has numerous partnerships and outreach projects in different sectors of society and has a large international network of branches in 14 countries over three continents. 

The LSA Member Spotlight highlights the interests and accomplishments of a different LSA member each month. Click here to see previous Member Spotlights.

When did you first join the LSA?

I joined in 1992.

How have you been involved with the LSA since you joined?

I attended the LSA Summer Institute in 1997 and taught at the LSA Summer Institute in 2003. I produced the leaflet “Raising Bilingual Children” with Bob Ladd.

I wish there could be more opportunities for LSA members from Europe to participate in LSA services and events. Given that we already have 5 branches of Bilingualism Matters in the US (and several more likely to open in the near future), I would like to work together with the LSA to increase our impact on communities.

What are you currently researching/working on?

I’m working on a number of projects in collaboration with researchers from other disciplines, focused on bilingualism in minority languages; decision-making in native and non-native languages; bilingualism and autism; and bilingual children’s perception of their own being bilingual in particular languages.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the field of linguistics today?

In my view the biggest challenge, at least for certain areas of theoretical linguistics, is isolation. Unless linguists open up to cross-disciplinary collaboration across subfields, linguistics runs the risk of being perceived as irrelevant or detached from the most important research questions, all of which require analyses from multiple perspectives. The field as a whole has certainly opened up over the last 30 years, since I was a student myself, but more needs to be done. Language and linguistics are often ignored in attempts to address many research and societal problems, where our contribution could be significant. It’s up to us to show the scientific and social value of our work and become more visible within and outside academia.

What advice would you give to students interested in pursuing a career in linguistics?

I train my students to gain theoretical and experimental knowledge relevant to the questions which are the focus of their interest, but I also encourage them to get engaged in disseminating and applying what they know outside academia. The Bilingualism Matters Centre I founded 10 years ago has trained many student volunteers to bring research to society. The common feedback is that there are huge benefits for research coming from engaging with communities, in terms of better understanding of the content of research questions, better clarity of thinking, and enhanced motivation.

What, in your opinion, is the most important service the LSA provides to its members? To the field?

The LSA connects researchers working on different aspects of language and cares about disseminating knowledge in society.