Skip to main content Accessibility help

Beyond typical learning: Variation in language experience as a lens to the developing mind

  • Judith F. Kroll (a1), Andrea Takahesu Tabori (a1) and Emily Mech (a1)


Infants are exposed to the language of the environment in which they are born and, in most instances, become native speakers of that language. Although the history of research on language acquisition provides a colorful debate on the specific ways that nature and nurture shape this process (e.g., MacWhinney, 1999; Pinker, 1995), its primary focus has been on typically developing children exposed to a single language from birth. Pierce, Genesee, Delcenserie, and Morgan (2017) turn the table on this discussion to argue that critically important lessons can be learned by shifting the focus from typically developing children to children for whom the trajectory of language learning follows a different course. Some of the variation in language development reflects attributes of child learners themselves, such as whether they are born hearing or deaf and whether they have conditions that disrupt their ability to fully perceive the speech input to which they are exposed. Other variations reflect attributes of the external conditions in which learners develop, including whether they remain in their country of birth or move to a location in which another language is spoken, whether exposure to the native language is continuous or disrupted, and whether they are exposed to a second language (L2) early or late in development. For deaf children, there is also variation in whether their parents or caregivers are themselves deaf or hearing and able to expose them to sign language during infancy. Pierce et al. use the diversity of early language experience as a tool to examine the relation between phonological working memory and language development and to begin to suggest how conditions that may produce costs or benefits in language learning may be related to one another.



Hide All
Abutalebi, J., & Green, D. W. (2016). Neuroimaging of language control in bilinguals: Neural adaptation and reserve. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 19, 689698.
Bak, T. H., Long, M. R., Vega-Mendoza, M., & Sorace, A. (2016). Novelty, challenge, and practice: The impact of intensive language learning on attentional functions. PLOS ONE, 11, e0153485.
Bialystok, E. (2017). The bilingual adaptation: How minds accommodate experience. Psychological Bulletin, 143, 233.
Bjork, E. L., & Bjork, R. A. (2014). Making things hard on yourself, but in a good way: Creating desirable difficulties to enhance learning. In Gernsbacher, M. A. & Pomerantz, J. (Eds.), Psychology and the real world: Essays illustrating fundamental contributions to society (2nd ed., pp. 5968). New York: Worth.
Brito, N., & Barr, R. (2012). Influence of bilingualism on memory generalization during infancy. Developmental Science, 15, 812816.
Emmorey, K., Giezen, M. R., & Gollan, T. H. (2016). Psycholinguistic, cognitive, and neural implications of bimodal bilingualism. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 19, 223242.
Green, D. W., & Abutalebi, J. (2013). Language control in bilinguals: The adaptive control hypothesis. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 25, 515530.
Grosjean, F. (1989). Neurolinguists, beware! The bilingual is not two monolinguals in one person. Brain and Language, 36, 315.
Kaushanskaya, M., & Marian, V. (2009). The bilingual advantage in novel word learning. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 16, 705710.
Kroll, J. F., & Dussias, P. E. (2016). Language and productivity for all Americans: What are the benefits of multilingualism to the personal and professional development of residents of this country? Cambridge, MA: American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Kroll, J. F., Dussias, P. E., Bice, K., & Perrotti, L. (2015). Bilingualism, mind, and brain. Annual Review of Linguistics, 1, 377394.
Kroll, J. F., & Navarro-Torres, C. (in press). Bilingualism. In Wixted, J. (Ed.), The Stevens’ handbook of experimental psychology and cognitive neuroscience: Section IV. Language and thought. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley/Blackwell.
Linck, J. A., Osthus, P., Koeth, J. T., & Bunting, M. F. (2014). Working memory and second language comprehension and production: A meta-analysis. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 21, 861883.
MacWhinney, B. (1999). The emergence of language. London: Taylor & Francis.
Pierce, L. J., Genesee, F., Delcenserie, A., & Morgan, G. (2017). Linking early language experiences and language learning outcomes. Applied Psycholinguistics, 38, 12651302.
Pinker, S. (1995). The language instinct: The new science of language and mind (Vol. 7529). London: Penguin.
Pivneva, I., Mercier, J., & Titone, D. (2014). Executive control modulates cross-language lexical activation during L2 reading: Evidence from eye movements. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 40, 787796.
Pons, F., Bosch, L., & Lewkowicz, D. J. (2015). Bilingualism modulates infants’ selective attention to the mouth of a talking face. Psychological Science, 26, 490498.
Sebastián-Gallés, N., Albareda-Castellot, B., Weikum, W. M., & Werker, J. F. (2012). A bilingual advantage in visual language discrimination in infancy. Psychological Science, 23, 994999.
Werker, J. F., & Byers-Heinlein, K. (2008). Bilingualism in infancy: First steps in perception and comprehension. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 12, 144151.


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed