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Chapter Three - Bilingualism, Language Development, and Brain Plasticity

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 October 2023

John W. Schwieter
Affiliation:
Wilfrid Laurier University, Ontario
Julia Festman
Affiliation:
University College of Teacher Education Tyrol
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Summary

This chapter distinguishes studies on the mind from studies investigating the brain. By describing linguistic, psychological, and cognitive neuroscience approaches, some aspects which have been found to be relevant for bilingualism have only been studied in linguistic terms, leaving open whether certain findings are limited to the mind level only or whether there is any correspondence on the brain level. Other aspects, well researched in linguistic or psychological studies, have not yet been taken up in neuroscientific studies, leaving the question of whether certain variables would change the results or explain variance unanswered. We then look at details of learning in the brain and in particular at brain plasticity, a lifelong available characteristic of the brain. The chapter also addresses the notion that for linguists, acquisition and learning are not the same, since context in general and factors such as input quality and quantity must be taken into account. In brain terms, there is only learning. We then discuss different factors influencing language acquisition and learning and reveal that individual differences can be found among these factors to a great extent.

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Chapter
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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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References

Further Reading

Bialystok, E. (2001). Bilingualism in development: Language, literacy, and cognition. Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Fuchs, E., & Flügge, G. (2014). Adult neuroplasticity: More than 40 years of research. Neural Plasticity, 541870. https://doi.org/10.1155/2014/541870.Google Scholar
Garraffa, M., Sorace, A., & Vender, M., with Schwieter, J. W. (2023). Bilingualism matters: Language learning across the lifespan. Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gregersen, T., & Mercer, S. (2022). The Routledge handbook of the psychology of language learning and teaching. Routledge.Google Scholar
Osterhout, L., Poliakov, A., Inoue, K., McLaughlin, J., Valentine, G., Pitkanen, I., … & Hirschensohn, J. (2008). Second-language learning and changes in the brain. Journal of Neurolinguistics, 21(6), 509521.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Pfenninger, S., Festman, J., & Singleton, D. (2023). Second language acquisition and lifelong learning. Routledge.Google Scholar

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