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Is there a relation between onset age of bilingualism and enhancement of cognitive control?*

  • GIGI LUK (a1), ERIC DE SA (a2) and ELLEN BIALYSTOK (a3)

Abstract

Young English-speaking monolingual and bilingual adults were examined for English proficiency, language use history, and performance on a flanker task. The bilinguals, who were about twenty years old, were divided into two groups (early bilinguals and late bilinguals) according to whether they became actively bilingual before or after the age of ten years. Early bilinguals and monolinguals demonstrated similar levels of English proficiency, and both groups were more proficient in English than late bilinguals. In contrast, early bilinguals produced the smallest response time cost for incongruent trials (flanker effect) with no difference between monolinguals and late bilinguals. Moreover, across the whole sample of bilinguals, onset age of active bilingualism was negatively correlated with English proficiency and positively correlated with the flanker effect. These results suggest a gradient in which more experience in being actively bilingual is associated with greater advantages in cognitive control and higher language proficiency.

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Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Gigi Luk, Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest Centre, 3560 Bathurst Street, Toronto, Ontario, M6A 2E1 Canada gluk@rotman-baycrest.on.ca

Footnotes

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*

This work was partially supported by grant R01HD052523 from the US National Institutes of Health and by grant A2559 from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada to EB.

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Bilingualism: Language and Cognition
  • ISSN: 1366-7289
  • EISSN: 1469-1841
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