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The diversity of experiences among bilingual children is reflected in the variability of abilities in each of their languages. This paper describes the CECER-DLL Child and Family, and Teacher Questionnaires and discusses the utility of these tools. These questionnaires were created to address the need for valid and reliable tools to document contextual characteristics and language experiences of young bilingual children in developmental and educational research. A multi-site validity study using the CECER-DLL Questionnaires demonstrates how children's language skills are influenced by language exposure at home and at school, mothers’ and teachers’ skills in each language, mother's generational status, and languages used during language and literacy activities at home.
In two experiments, we examined the hypothesis that bilingual speakers modulate their cognitive control settings dynamically in the presence of different interlocutors, and this can be captured through performance on a non-linguistic attention task. We introduced Malayalam–English bilinguals to interlocutors with varying L2 dominance through a pre-experiment familiarisation and interaction phase. Later, participants did the Flanker task while the interlocutors appeared before each trial. While in experiment one participants did the Flanker task with equal distribution of trials, in experiment two we manipulated the monitoring demands by changing the frequency of trials. Results showed that high-L2 proficient bilinguals had lower conflict effect on the Flanker task in the presence of balanced interlocutors in both the experiments. The results provide strong evidence of dynamic adaptation of control settings in bilinguals with regard to different passively present interlocutors. The results further extend the predictions of the adaptive control hypothesis with novel manipulation.
Although bilinguals benefit from semantic context while perceiving speech-in-noise in their native language (L1), the extent to which bilinguals benefit from semantic context in their second language (L2) is unclear. Here, 57 highly proficient English–French/French–English bilinguals, who varied in L2 age of acquisition, performed a speech-perception-in-noise task in both languages while event-related brain potentials were recorded. Participants listened to and repeated the final word of sentences high or low in semantic constraint, in quiet and with a multi-talker babble mask. Overall, our findings indicate that bilinguals do benefit from semantic context while perceiving speech-in-noise in both their languages. Simultaneous bilinguals showed evidence of processing semantic context similarly to monolinguals. Early sequential bilinguals recruited additional neural resources, suggesting more effective use of semantic context in L2, compared to late bilinguals. Semantic context use was not associated with bilingual language experience or working memory.
This research investigates selectivity in word learning for bilingual infants. Previous work demonstrated that bilingual infants show greater openness to non-native language sounds in object labels than monolinguals (Hay et al., 2015; Singh, 2018). It remains unclear whether bilingual openness extends to nonspeech sounds. We presented 14- and 19-month-old bilinguals with object labels consisting of nonspeech tones. Monolinguals recently displayed learning of the same labels at 14 months, but not 19 months (Graf Estes et al., 2018). In contrast, bilinguals failed to learn the labels. We propose that hearing phonological variation across two languages helps bilinguals reject nonspeech word forms.
The ‘new NAFTA’ agreement between Canada, Mexico, and the United States maintained the system for binational panel judicial review of antidumping and countervailing duty determinations of domestic government agencies. In US–Mexico disputes, this hybrid system brings together Spanish and English-speaking lawyers from the civil and the common law to solve legal disputes applying domestic law. These panels raise issues regarding potential bicultural, bilingual, and bijural (mis)understandings in legal reasoning. Do differences in language, legal traditions, and legal cultures limit the effectiveness of inter-systemic dispute resolution? We analyze all of the decisions of NAFTA panels in US–Mexico disputes regarding Mexican antidumping and countervailing duty determinations and the profiles of the corresponding panelists. This case study tests whether one can actually comprehend the ‘other’. To what extent can a common law, English-speaking lawyer understand and apply Mexican law, expressed in Spanish and rooted in a distinct legal culture?
The topic of non-native language processing has been of steady interest in past decades. Yet, conclusions about the emotional responses in L2 have been highly variable. We conducted a large-scale rating study to explicitly measure how non-native readers of English respond to the valence and arousal of 2,628 English words. We investigated how the effect of a rater's L2 proficiency, length of time in Canada, and the semantic category of the word affects how L2 readers experience and rate that word. L2 speakers who had lived a longer time in Canada, and reported higher English proficiency, showed emotional responses that were more similar to those of L1 speakers of English. Additionally, valence differences between L1 and L2 raters were greater in words that L2 raters do not typically use in English. These findings highlight the importance of behavioural ecology in language learning, particularly as it applies to emotional word processing.
Low power in empirical studies can be compared to blurred vision. It makes the signal ambiguous, so that conclusions depend more on interpretation than on observation. Data patterns that look sensible are published as evidence for theoretical positions and unclear patterns are discarded as noise, whereas both could be due to sampling error or could be a perfect reflection of the population parameters. Simulations indicate that little research with sample sizes lower than 100 participants per group provides a picture of enough resolution to draw firm conclusions. This is particularly true for research comparing groups of people and involving interaction effects. As a result, it is to be feared that many findings in bilingualism research do not have a firm base, certainly not if they go beyond a simple comparison of two within-participants conditions.
Substantial research has examined cognition in aging bilinguals. However, less work has investigated the effects of aging on language itself in bilingualism. In this article I comprehensively review prior research on this topic, and interpret the evidence in light of current theories of aging and theories of bilingualism. First, aging indeed appears to affect bilinguals’ language performance, though there is considerable variability in the trajectory across adulthood (declines, age-invariance, and improvements) and in the extent to which these trajectories resemble those found in monolinguals. I argue that these age effects are likely explained by the key opposing forces of increasing experience and cognitive declines in aging. Second, consistent with some theoretical work on bilingual language processing, the grammatical processing mechanisms do not seem to change between younger and older bilingual adults, even after decades of immersion. I conclude by discussing how future research can further advance the field.
With close to 7,000 languages in use around the world today (Lewis, Simons, & Fennig, 2009) and only 195 countries (United Nations, 2018), being completely monolingual is quite rare as multilingualism is often the norm (Grin, 2004). Looking through the research literature, however, it would appear as though bilinguals are a unique population with distinct advantages or disadvantages from monolinguals. Spear (1984) proposed that what infants of all species learn and remember at any time in development is determined by the ecological challenges posed by their current environment and the survival value of responding successfully to them. Learning trajectories of monolingual and bilingual children are more similar than different, with differences reflecting the bilingual brain’s adaptations to the surrounding linguistic conditions. The rate and ease at which children learn language is surprising, as language acquisition is a very complex task, with infants having to quickly learn how to identify patterns within a continuous string of speech sounds (Saffran, Aslin, & Newport, 1996).
This chapter addresses a number of basic facts about how languages work, and these are applied to the evolution of English in its global context. A few basic notions are introduced and defined – including dialect, accent, and variety. Widespread prejudices as to language “correctness” are compared to the notion of communicative adequacy in given contexts. All languages are found to vary, i.e. there is typically a choice between alternative realizations of linguistic entities on the language levels of pronunciation (phonetics and phonology), vocabulary (lexis), and grammar (syntax). Global varieties of English show variation on each of these levels, which can be explained by processes and principles of language change and language contact between speakers of different languages who communicate with each other and transfer forms from one language to another in bilingual or multilingual minds. Conceptualizations and categorization frameworks for the new varieties of English around the globe are introduced, including the ENL-ESL-EFL distinction and Kachru’s “Three Circles” model, as well as the “Dynamic Model” which suggests five subsequent developmental stages which newly emerging postcolonial varieties typically go through.
Acoustic cues to deception on a picture-naming task were analyzed in three groups of English speakers: monolinguals, bilinguals with English as their first language, and bilinguals with English as a second language. Results revealed that all participants had longer reaction times when generating falsehoods than when producing truths, and that the effect was more robust for English as a second language bilinguals than for the other two groups. Articulation rate was higher for all groups when producing lies. Mean fundamental frequency and intensity cues were not reliable cues to deception, but there was lower variance in both of these parameters when generating false versus true labels for all participants. Results suggest that naming latency was the only cue to deception that differed by language background. These findings broadly support the cognitive-load theory of deception, suggesting that a combination of producing deceptive speech and using a second language puts an extra load on the speaker.
We examined how proficiency influences the processing of emotion words in Spanish–English bilinguals (22 balanced and 20 unbalanced). All unbalanced bilinguals were more proficient in English than Spanish. Participants rated the valence of negative, neutral, and positive words in both languages while EEG was being recorded. ERP latencies and amplitudes were analyzed for two components. The language effect was significant on the late positive component (LPC) amplitude, which was larger for emotion than for neutral words for both groups in English. The unbalanced group presented larger LPC amplitudes for positive than for neutral and for neutral than for negative words in Spanish, suggesting emotion processing differences in these participants’ less proficient language. Valence effects were consistent across languages for the balanced group, but not for the unbalanced group, perhaps reflecting differences in reactivity to emotion words in the less proficient language.
The present study analyzed lexical processing efficiency in Spanish-speaking English language learners (ELLs) and their monolingual English-speaking peers from kindergarten through second grade. Specifically, changes in the patterns of speed and accuracy on a rapid object-naming task were evaluated across languages for the ELL children and across the groups of children. Repeated measures analysis of variance demonstrated that ELL children have a rapid shift in language processing efficiency from Spanish to English by the end of kindergarten. Results also showed that by the end of kindergarten ELL children were slightly faster and more accurate in English compared with their monolingual peers. This work provides perspective on how lexical processing is impacted by the development of a dual lexical system. We discuss how lexical density, strength of lexical connections, and environmental constraints may influence this rapid shift in lexical processing efficiency for young Spanish-speaking ELL children.
The majority of the world’s population is believed to speak more than one language. Moreover, given current demographic trends, older adults make up a significant portion of our population. In this chapter, we review what is known about the intersection between cognitive aging and language processing in one’s first and second language. We review current research findings concerning speech and language processing in older bilinguals at the level of words, sentences, and discourse. We review the implications of being bilingual for nonlinguistic cognitive functions and cognitive reserve. We close by highlighting the need for models of auditory and visual language processing to accommodate age-related changes in sensation, perception and cognition, and to account for important individual differences in language history and use.
This study examined whether the Foreign-Language effect, an increase in bilinguals’ rate of rational decisions to moral dilemmas in their foreign versus their native language, is influenced by emotion and the modality in which the dilemmas are presented. 154 Dutch–English bilinguals were asked to read and listen to personal and impersonal moral dilemmas in Dutch or in English. Importantly, the reading task had the character of a self-paced reading task to resemble the listening task as closely as possible. In both modalities, participants’ task was to indicate whether the proposed action was appropriate or not. Results showed that the Foreign-Language effect was present for personal dilemmas only. In addition, an effect of modality demonstrated that participants took overall more rational decisions during the listening than the reading task. These findings give insight in the interplay between language, emotion and task demands, revealing that moral decision making is context-dependent.
We investigated how verbal labels affect object categorization in bilinguals. In English, most nouns do not provide linguistic clues to their categories (an exception is sunflower), whereas in Chinese, some nouns provide category information morphologically (e.g., 鸵鸟- ostrich and 知更鸟- robin have the morpheme鸟- bird in their Chinese names), while some nouns do not (e.g., 企鹅- penguin and 鸽子- pigeon). We examined the effect of Chinese word structure on bilinguals’ categorization processes in two ERP experiments. Chinese–English bilinguals and English monolinguals judged the membership of atypical (e.g., ostrich, penguin) vs. typical (e.g., robin, pigeon) pictorial (Experiment 1) and English word (Experiment 2) exemplars of categories (e.g., bird). English monolinguals showed typicality effects in RT data, and in the N300 and N400 of ERP data, regardless of whether the object name had a category cue in Chinese. In contrast, Chinese–English bilinguals showed a larger typicality effect for objects without category cues in their name than objects with cues, even when they were tested in English. These results demonstrate that linguistic information in bilinguals’ L1 has an effect on their L2 categorization processes. The findings are explained using the label-feedback hypothesis.
Past studies have reported memory differences between monolingual and bilingual infants (Brito & Barr, 2012; Singh, Fu, Rahman, Hameed, Sanmugam, Agarwal, Jiang, Chong, Meaney & Rifkin-Graboi, 2015). A common critique within the bilingualism literature is the absence of socioeconomic indicators and/or a lack of socioeconomic diversity among participants. Previous research has demonstrated robust bilingual differences in memory generalization from 6- to 24-months of age. The goal of the current study was to examine if these findings would replicate in a sample of 18-month-old monolingual and bilingual infants from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds (N = 92). Results indicate no differences between language groups on working memory or cued recall, but significant differences for memory generalization, with bilingual infants outperforming monolingual infants regardless of socioeconomic status (SES). These findings replicate and extend results from past studies (Brito & Barr, 2012; Brito, Sebastián-Gallés & Barr, 2015) and suggest possible differential learning patterns dependent on linguistic experience.
Numerous studies have argued that bilingualism has effects on cognitive functions. Recently, in light of increasingly mixed empirical results, this claim has been challenged. One might ponder if there is enough evidence to justify a cessation to future research on the topic or, alternatively, how the field could proceed to better understand the phantom-like appearance of bilingual effects. Herein, we attempt to frame this appearance at the crossroads of several factors such as the heterogeneity of the term ‘bilingual’, sample size effects, task effects, and the complex dynamics between an early publication bias that favours positive results and the subsequent Proteus phenomenon. We conclude that any definitive claim on the topic is premature and that research must continue, albeit in a modified way. To this effect, we offer a path forward for future multi-lab work that should provide clearer answers to whether bilingualism has neurocognitive effects, and if so, under what conditions.
Bilingual children cope with a significant amount of phonetic variability when processing speech, and must learn to weigh phonetic cues differently depending on the cues’ respective roles in their two languages. For example, vowel nasalization is coarticulatory and contrastive in French, but coarticulatory-only in English. In this study, we extended an investigation of the processing of coarticulation in two- to three-year-old English monolingual children (Zamuner, Moore & Desmeules-Trudel, 2016) to a group of four- to six-year-old English monolingual children and age-matched English–French bilingual children. Using eye tracking, we found that older monolingual children and age-matched bilingual children showed more sensitivity to coarticulation cues than the younger children. Moreover, when comparing the older monolinguals and bilinguals, we found no statistical differences between the two groups. These results offer support for the specification of coarticulation in word representations, and indicate that, in some cases, bilingual children possess language processing skills similar to monolinguals.
Research using single-word paradigms has established that forced language switching incurs processing costs for some bilinguals, yet, less research has addressed this phenomenon at the utterance level or considered real-world applications. The current study examined the impacts of forced language switching on spoken output and stress using a simulated virtual meeting. Twenty Spanish–English heritage bilinguals responded to general work-oriented questions in monolingual English (control) or language-switching (experimental) conditions. Responses were analyzed for mean length of utterance (MLU) and type-token-ratio (TTR). Multilevel modeling revealed an interaction effect of Condition (control vs. experimental) and question order on MLU, such that participants in the experimental condition produced significantly shorter utterances by the end of the task. Participants also had significantly lower lexical variation (TTR) overall in the experimental than the control condition. A 2 × 2 ANOVA revealed a significant effect of Condition and an interaction of Task (pre- vs. posttask) and Condition, such that participants in the control condition reported significantly lower stress after the activity. Results demonstrated the impact of a forced switching condition on production at the utterance level. Findings have implications for theory and scenarios in which heritage bilinguals are asked to use multiple languages in the workplace.