The purpose of this study was to determine if different language measures resulted in the same classifications of language dominance and proficiency for a group of bilingual pre-kindergarteners and kindergarteners. Data were analyzed for 1029 Spanish-English bilingual pre-kindergarteners who spanned the full range of bilingual language proficiency. Parent questionnaires were used to quantify age of first exposure and current language use. Scores from a short test of semantic and morphosyntactic development in Spanish and English were used to quantify children's performance. Some children who were in the functionally monolingual range based on interview data demonstrated minimal knowledge of their other languages when tested. Current use accounted for more of the variance in language dominance than did age of first exposure. Results indicate that at different levels of language exposure children differed in their performance on semantic and morphosyntax tasks. These patterns suggest that it may be difficult to compare the results of studies that employ different measures of language dominance and proficiency. Current use is likely to be a useful metric of bilingual development that can be used to build a comprehensive picture of child bilingualism.
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to compare brain activation from Japanese readers reading hiragana (syllabic) and kanji (logographic) sentences, and English as a second language (L2). Kanji showed more activation than hiragana in right-hemisphere occipito-temporal lobe areas associated with visuospatial processing; hiragana, in turn, showed more activation than kanji in areas of the brain associated with phonological processing. L1 results underscore the difference in visuospatial and phonological processing demands between the systems. Reading in English as compared to either of the Japanese systems showed more activation in inferior frontal gyrus, medial frontal gyrus, and angular gyrus. The additional activation in English in these areas may have been associated with an increased cognitive demand for phonological processing and verbal working memory. More generally, L2 results suggest more effortful reading comprehension processes. The study contributes to the understanding of differential brain responses to different writing systems and to reading comprehension in a second language.
Previous language learning research reveals that the statistical properties of the input offer sufficient information to allow listeners to segment words from fluent speech in an artificial language. The current pair of studies uses a natural language to test the ecological validity of these findings and to determine whether a listener's language background influences this process. In Study 1, the "guessibility" of potential test words from the Norwegian language was presented to 22 listeners who were asked to differentiate between true words and nonwords. In Study 2, 22 adults who spoke one of 12 different primary languages learned to segment words from continuous speech in an implicit language learning paradigm. The task consisted of two sessions, approximately three weeks apart, each requiring participants to listen to 7.2 minutes of Norwegian sentences followed by a series of bisyllabic test items presented in isolation. The participants differentially accepted the Norwegian words and Norwegian-like nonwords in both test sessions, demonstrating the capability to segment true words from running speech. The results were consistent across three broadly-defined language groups, despite differences in participants' language background.
Subject-verb agreement is a computation that is often difficult to execute perfectly in the first language (L1) and even more difficult to produce skillfully in a second language (L2). In this study, we examined the way in which bilingual speakers complete sentence fragments in a manner that reflects access to both grammatical and conceptual number. In two experiments, we show that bilingual speakers are sensitive to both grammatical and conceptual number in the L1 and grammatical number agreement in the L2. However, only highly proficient bilinguals are also sensitive to conceptual number in the L2. The results suggest that the extent to which speakers are able to exploit conceptual information during speech planning depends on the level of language proficiency.
Given that the linguistic articulators for sign language are also used to produce co-speech gesture, we examined whether one year of academic instruction in American Sign Language (ASL) impacts the rate and nature of gestures produced when speaking English. A survey study revealed that 75% of ASL learners (N = 95), but only 14% of Romance language learners (N = 203), felt that they gestured more after one year of language instruction. A longitudinal study confirmed this perception. Twenty-one ASL learners and 20 Romance language learners (French, Italian, Spanish) were filmed re-telling a cartoon story before and after one academic year of language instruction. Only the ASL learners exhibited an increase in gesture rate, an increase in the production of iconic gestures, and an increase in the number of handshape types exploited in co-speech gesture. Five ASL students also produced at least one ASL sign when re-telling the cartoon. We suggest that learning ASL may (i) lower the neural threshold for co-speech gesture production, (ii) pose a unique challenge for language control, and (iii) have the potential to improve cognitive processes that are linked to gesture.
Brysbaert and Duyck (2009) suggest that it is time to abandon the Revised Hierarchical Model (Kroll and Stewart, 1994) in favor of connectionist models such as BIA+ (Dijkstra and Van Heuven, 2002) that more accurately account for the recent evidence on nonselective access in bilingual word recognition. In this brief response, we first review the history of the Revised Hierarchical Model (RHM), consider the set of issues that it was proposed to address, and then evaluate the evidence that supports and fails to support the initial claims of the model. Although 15 years of new research findings require a number of revisions to the RHM, we argue that the central issues to which the model was addressed, the way in which new lexical forms are mapped to meaning and the consequence of language learning history for lexical processing, cannot be accounted for solely within models of word recognition.
Spoken language (unimodal) interpreters often prefer to interpret from their non-dominant language (L2) into their native language (L1). Anecdotally, signed language (bimodal) interpreters express the opposite bias, preferring to interpret from L1 (spoken language) into L2 (signed language). We conducted a large survey study (N=1,359) of both unimodal and bimodal interpreters that confirmed these preferences. The L1 to L2 direction preference was stronger for novice than expert bimodal interpreters, while novice and expert unimodal interpreters did not differ from each other. The results indicated that the different direction preferences for bimodal and unimodal interpreters cannot be explained by language production-comprehension asymmetries or by work or training experiences. We suggest that modality and language-specific features of signed languages drive the directionality preferences of bimodal interpreters. Specifically, we propose that fingerspelling, transcoding (literal word-for-word translation), self-monitoring, and consumers' linguistic variation influence the preference of bimodal interpreters for working into their L2.
Bilinguals are better able to perceive speech-in-noise in their native compared to their non-native language. This benefit is thought to be due to greater use of higher-level, linguistic context in the native language. Previous studies showing this have used sentences and do not allow us to determine which level of language contributes to this context benefit. Here, we used a new paradigm that isolates the SEMANTIC level of speech, in both languages of bilinguals. Results revealed that in the native language, a semantically related target word facilitates the perception of a previously presented degraded prime word relative to when a semantically unrelated target follows the prime, suggesting a specific contribution of semantics to the native language context benefit. We also found the reverse in the non-native language, where there was a disadvantage of semantic coext on word recognition, suggesting that such top-down, contextual information results in semantic interference in one's second language.
This study used lexical tasks to examine associations between languages, tasks, and age in bilingual children with primary language impairment. Participants (n = 41, mean age 8;8 years) lived in the United States, spoke primarily Spanish (L1) at home and English (L2) at school, and were identified with moderate to severe impairments in both languages. A total of eight tasks (four in each language) measured breadth of vocabulary knowledge (receptive and expressive vocabulary) and aspects of lexical processing (rapid automatic naming and nonword repetition). Correlational analyses revealed older children outperformed younger children on lexical tasks in L2 but not L1, as well as relative L2 dominance for most individuals and tasks. Positive associations were found between languages on processing-based tasks but not vocabulary measures. Findings were consistent with literature on typical bilingual learners, albeit with a notable increased risk of plateau in L1 growth. Results are interpreted within a Dynamic Systems framework.
How does age of first bilingual language exposure affect reading development in children learning to read in both of their languages? Is there a reading advantage for monolingual English children who are educated in bilingual schools? We studied children (grades 2-3, ages 7-9) in bilingual Spanish-English schools who were either from Spanish-speaking homes (new to English) or English-speaking homes (new to Spanish), as compared with English-speaking children in monolingual English schools. An early age of first bilingual language exposure had a positive effect on reading, phonological awareness, and language competence in both languages: early bilinguals (age of first exposure 0-3 years) outperformed other bilingual groups (age of first exposure 3-6 years). Remarkably, schooling in two languages afforded children from monolingual English homes an advantage in phoneme awareness skills. Early bilingual exposure is best for dual language reading development, and it may afford such a powerful positive impact on reading and language development that it may possibly ameliorate the negative effect of low SES on literacy. Further, age of first bilingual exposure provides a new tool for evaluating whether a young bilingual has a reading problem versus whether he or she is a typically-developing dual-language learner.
Speech-sign or "bimodal" bilingualism is exceptional because distinct modalities allow for simultaneous production of two languages. We investigated the ramifications of this phenomenon for models of language production by eliciting language mixing from eleven hearing native users of American Sign Language (ASL) and English. Instead of switching between languages, bilinguals frequently produced code-blends (simultaneously produced English words and ASL signs). Code-blends resembled co-speech gesture with respect to synchronous vocal-manual timing and semantic equivalence. When ASL was the Matrix Language, no single-word code-blends were observed, suggesting stronger inhibition of English than ASL for these proficient bilinguals. We propose a model that accounts for similarities between co-speech gesture and code-blending and assumes interactions between ASL and English Formulators. The findings constrain language production models by demonstrating the possibility of simultaneously selecting two lexical representations (but not two propositions) for linguistic expression and by suggesting that lexical suppression is computationally more costly than lexical selection.
Executive control abilities and lexical access speed in Stroop performance were investigated in English monolinguals and two groups of bilinguals (English-Chinese and Chinese-English) in their first (L1) and second (L2) languages. Predictions were based on a bilingual cognitive advantage hypothesis, implicating cognitive control ability as the critical factor determining Stroop interference; and two bilingual lexical disadvantage hypotheses, focusing on lexical access speed. Importantly, each hypothesis predicts different response patterns in a Stroop task manipulating stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA). There was evidence for a bilingual cognitive advantage, although this effect was sensitive to a number of variables including proficiency, language immersion, and script. In lexical access speed, no differences occurred between monolinguals and bilinguals in their native languages, but there was evidence for a delay in L2 processing speed relative to the L1. Overall, the data highlight the multitude of factors affecting executive control and lexical access speed in bilinguals.
Given that there are neural markers for the acquisition of a non-verbal skill, we review evidence of neural markers for the acquisition of vocabulary. Acquiring vocabulary is critical to learning one's native language and to learning other languages. Acquisition requires the ability to link an object concept (meaning) to sound. Is there a region sensitive to vocabulary knowledge? For monolingual English speakers, increased vocabulary knowledge correlates with increased grey matter density in a region of the parietal cortex that is well-located to mediate an association between meaning and sound (the posterior supramarginal gyrus). Further this region also shows sensitivity to acquiring a second language. Relative to monolingual English speakers, Italian-English bilinguals show increased grey matter density in the same region.Differences as well as commonalities might exist in the neural markers for vocabulary where lexical distinctions are also signalled by tone. Relative to monolingual English, Chinese multilingual speakers, like European multilinguals, show increased grey matter density in the parietal region observed previously. However, irrespective of ethnicity, Chinese speakers (both Asian and European) also show highly significant increased grey matter density in two right hemisphere regions (the superior temporal gyrus and the inferior frontal gyrus). They also show increased grey matter density in two left hemisphere regions (middle temporal and superior temporal gyrus). Such increases may reflect additional resources required to process tonal distinctions for lexical purposes or to store tonal differences in order to distinguish lexical items. We conclude with a discussion of future lines of enquiry.
Many attempts have been made to teach native Japanese listeners to perceptually differentiate English/r-l/(e.g. rock-lock). Though improvement is evident, in no case is final performance native English-like. We focused our training on the third formant onset frequency, shown to be the most reliable indicator of/r-l/category membership. We first presented listeners with instances of synthetic/r-l/stimuli varying only in F3 onset frequency, in a forced-choice identification training task with feedback. Evidence of learning was limited. The second experiment utilized an adaptive paradigm beginning with non-speech stimuli consisting only of/r/and/l/F3 frequency trajectories progressing to synthetic speech instances of/ra-la/; half of the trainees received feedback. Improvement was shown by some listeners, suggesting some enhancement of/r-l/identification is possible following training with only F3 onset frequency. However, only a subset of these listeners showed signs of generalization of the training effect beyond the trained synthetic context.
The authors compared performance on two variants of the primed lexical decision task to investigate morphological processing in native and non-native speakers of English. They examined patterns of facilitation on present tense targets. Primes were regular (billed-bill) past tense formations and two types of irregular past tense forms that varied on preservation of target length (fell-fall; taught-teach). When a forward mask preceded the prime (Exp. 1), language and prime type interacted. Native speakers showed reliable regular and irregular length preserved facilitation relative to orthographic controls. Non-native speakers' latencies after morphological and orthographic primes did not differ reliably except for regulars. Under cross-modal conditions (Exp. 2), language and prime type interacted. Native but not non-native speakers showed inhibition following orthographically similar primes. Collectively, reliable facilitation for regulars and patterns across verb type and task provided little support for a processing dichotomy (decomposition, non-combinatorial association) based on inflectional regularity in either native or non-native speakers of English.
Adults and children learning a second language show difficulty accessing expressive vocabulary that appears accessible receptively in their first language (L1). We call this discrepancy the receptive-expressive gap. Kindergarten Spanish (L1) - English (L2) sequential bilinguals were given standardized tests of receptive and expressive vocabulary in both Spanish and English. We found a small receptive-expressive gap in English but a large receptive-expressive gap in Spanish. We categorized children as having had high or low levels of English exposure based on demographic variables and found that the receptive-expressive gap persisted across both levels of English exposure. Regression analyses revealed that variables predicting both receptive and expressive vocabulary scores failed to predict the receptive-expressive gap. The results suggest that the onset of the receptive-expressive gap in L1 must have been abrupt. We discuss possible mechanisms underlying the phenomenon.
A corpus analysis of phonological word-forms shows that English words have few phonological neighbors that are Spanish words. Concomitantly, Spanish words have few phonological neighbors that are English words. These observations appear to undermine certain accounts of bilingual language processing, and have significant implications for the processing and representation of word-forms in bilinguals.
Because the field of bilingualism is still relatively new, studies in the linguistics, psycholinguistics, language development and neurolinguistics of bilingualism have often produced conflicting results. It will be argued in this paper that some of the difficulties encountered by researchers could have been lessened, if not avoided, had close attention been paid to methodological and conceptual issues. Among the issues covered are bilingual participants, language mode, stimuli, tasks as well as models of bilingual representation and processing. Each issue is dealt with in the following way: first it is explained, then the problems it causes are discussed, and, finally, tentative solutions are proposed. Examples are taken from descriptive and experimental studies of normal bilingual adults and children as well as bilinguals suffering from aphasia and dementia.
Comments on an article by Aneta Pavlenko (see record
2008-10370-001). In her thoughtful work regarding various aspects of emotion and emotion related words, the author explores a variety of perspectives on how we might characterize and conceptualize expressions of emotion. It is a work that is quite rich in breadth - one that leads to a variety of different thoughts on this topic, many of which are amenable to experimental exploration. Pavlenko continues to dig deeper into the conceptualization of emotion by discussing the notion of "concept comparability". Pavlenko, models that consider the distributed properties of features across languages, such as the one devised by de Groot and others likely holds more promise in being able to describe the featural, semantic, and conceptual overlap that words share across languages--words that do not seem to have a one-to-one correspondence. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
This longitudinal quasi-experimental study examines the effects of Word Generation, a middle-school vocabulary intervention, on the learning, maintenance, and consolidation of academic vocabulary for students from English-speaking homes, proficient English speakers from language-minority homes, and limited English-proficiency students. Using individual growth modeling, we found that students receiving Word Generation improved more on target word knowledge during the instructional period than students in comparison schools did, on average. We found an interaction between instruction and home-language status such that English-proficient students from language-minority homes improved more than English-proficient students from English-speaking homes. Limited English-proficiency students, however, did not realize gains equivalent to those of more proficient students from language-minority homes during the instructional period. We administered follow-up assessments in the fall after the instructional period ended and in the spring of the following year to determine how well students maintained and consolidated target academic words. Students in the intervention group maintained their relative improvements at both follow-up assessments.
This paper considers whether the findings on the referential properties of Root Infinitives in monolingual children (Wijnen, 1997; Hoekstra and Hyams, 1998) are replicated in a bilingual situation. Testing a proposal put forward by Hulk and Müller (2000), the present study investigates whether and how crosslinguistic influence manifests itself, using original longitudinal data from a bilingual German/English child. The bilingual results are found to be broadly consistent with the monolingual data: there is no indication of either quantitative or qualitative crosslinguistic influence. Consequently, it is argued that these data show that Hulk and Müller's proposal needs refining. Suggestions are made as to how this could be achieved.
Acquisition by Processing Theory (APT) is a unified account of language processing and learning that encompasses both L1 and L2 acquisition. Bold in aim and broad in scope, the proposal offers parsimony and comprehensiveness, both highly desirable in a theory of language acquisition. However, the sweep of the proposal is accompanied by an economy of description that makes it difficult to evaluate the validity of key learning claims, or even how literally they are to be interpreted. Two in particular deserve comment; the first concerns the learning mechanisms responsible for adding new L2 grammatical information, and the second the theoretical and empirical status of the activation concept used in the model.
An article-choice study involving L1 Mandarin/L2 English bilinguals is reported. It tested two recent accounts on the representation of English articles in L2 grammars (where L1 has no articles). The Fluctuation Hypothesis (Ionin, Ko and Wexler, 2004) predicts that L2 speakers will have full access to UG, but will fluctuate between the settings of the postulated Article Choice Parameter; article choices will be influenced by [±specificity]. The syntactic misanalysis account, on which L2 articles are treated as adjectives (Trenkic, 2007), predicts that article choices will be influenced by the objective identifiability of referents. By discussing the notion of specificity and emphasising problems in its operationalisation, the current study introduces an innovative design to reveal that what was previously observed as the effect of specificity on L2 article choices (full UG access) is better described as an effect of the stated/denied familiarity with the referent (an extra-linguistic factor).
It is not easy to comment on Dijkstra and Van Heuven's model because there are many more aspects we agree with than aspects we feel uncomfortable about. Indeed, the BIA model has played an enormous role in showing us how bilingual visual word recognition can be achieved without recurrence to the intuitively appealing – but wrong – ideas of separate, language-specific lexicons and language-selective access. As in many other research areas, a working computational model has been much more influential in convincing critical readers (and researchers) than any series of empirical findings. The BIA+ model inherits this strength and, hopefully, in the coming years will be implemented in enough detail to exceed its predecessor. In the rest of this comment, we would like to put a cautionary note behind the temporal delay assumption introduced in the target article and provide some additional corroborating evidence for the lack of non-linguistic effects on early processes in the identification system.
Previous studies of adult bilinguals have shown that cognates (translation equivalents similar in sound and spelling) are translated faster than non-cognates and different representations for the two categories in bilingual memory have been suggested (Kroll and Stewart 1994, van Hell and de Groot 1998). Assuming that bilingual children's representations are similar to those of adults, effects of form similarity between words should also be observed. This paper examines form-similar nouns in the early lexical development of a bilingual German/English child aged 1;119. Form similarity here differs from the cognate status of a word in that it implies similarity of sound only. Considering the way hearing children acquire words, it seemed necessary to restrict the similarity of words to this modality. Similarly, the presentation of items in the translation tasks was auditory. The results show an effect of form similarity in early lexical development, whereby form-similar words occurred frequently in the beginning of the observation period in both languages and were more likely to have a translation equivalent in the child's English. In the translation task, form similarity resulted in lower latencies for both language directions. The results thereby confirm that form similarity affects representations in both adult and child learners.
Dijkstra and Van Heuven sketch the BIA+ model for visual word processing in bilinguals. BIA+ differs in a number of respects from its predecessor, BIA, the leading implemented model of bilingual visual word recognition. Notably, BIA+ contains a new processing component that deals with task demands. BIA+ has not been computationally implemented yet and design decisions still need to be taken. In this commentary, I outline a proposal for modeling the control of tasks in BIA+.
In the visual domain, more than two decades of work posits the existence of dual category learning systems. The reflective system uses working memory to develop and test rules for classifying in an explicit fashion. The reflexive system operates by implicitly associating perception with actions that lead to reinforcement. Dual-systems models posit that in learning natural categories, learners initially use the reflective system and with practice, transfer control to the reflexive system. The role of reflective and reflexive systems in second language (L2) speech learning has not been systematically examined. Here monolingual, native speakers of American English were trained to categorize Mandarin tones produced by multiple talkers. Our computational modeling approach demonstrates that learners use reflective and reflexive strategies during tone category learning. Successful learners use talker-dependent, reflective analysis early in training and reflexive strategies by the end of training. Our results demonstrate that dual-learning systems are operative in L2 speech learning. Critically, learner strategies directly relate to individual differences in category learning success.
New theories are a constant of the now vast literature on code-mixing (CM). The
Gradient Symbolic Computation
model proposed by Goldrick, Putnam and Schwartz (Goldrick, Putnam & Schwartz) will appeal to many, especially those who already espouse constraint-based approaches to grammar. As variationist sociolinguists, we particularly welcome the model's incorporation of “relative probabilities of certain structures”, a feature we believe can enhance our chances of capturing actual CM behavior. We also applaud Goldrick et al.’s efforts to integrate experimental findings on co-activation with grammatical principles. Our questions concern the utility of “doubling constructions” to showcase the model, and by extension, the degree to which it can account for bilinguals’
of CM. A historical perspective on the field shows that none of the myriad theories of CM, often inspired by competing sets of grammatical principles, has yet achieved broad acceptance. In the absence of any widely endorsed evaluation metric – still sadly lacking -– how are we to decide amongst them?
The language history questionnaire (LHQ) is an important tool for assessing the linguistic background of bilinguals or second language learners and for generating self-reported proficiency in multiple languages. Previously we developed a generic LHQ based on the most commonly asked questions in published studies (Li, Sepanski & Zhao, 2006). Here we report a new web-based interface (LHQ 2.0) that has more flexibility in functionality, more accuracy in data recording, and more privacy for users and data. LHQ 2.0 achieves flexibility, accuracy, and privacy by using dynamic web-design features for enhanced data collection. It allows investigators to dynamically construct individualized LHQs on the fly and allows participants to complete the LHQ online in multiple languages. Investigators can download and delete the LHQ results and update their user and experiment information on the web. Privacy issues are handled through the online assignment of a unique ID number for each study and password-protected access to data.
Recent years have seen a surge in research comparing bilinguals to monolinguals, yet synthesizing this literature is complicated by the diversity of language and social backgrounds behind these dichotomous labels. The current study examines the labels and descriptions reported in 186 studies comparing bilinguals and monolinguals published between 2005–2015 in order to understand how bilingualism has been operationalized and to describe the degree to which different facets of bilingual experience are reported. Proficiency and usage were the most frequently reported features (77% and 79%), followed by language history (67%) and the language of schooling (60%). However, less than half of the studies measured proficiency objectively or reported proportional usage, and even less – 30% – described the sociolinguistic context from which the sample was drawn. Given the increase in language contact due to globalization, more transparent and comprehensive reporting of participant characteristics is critical to building our understanding of how bilingualism affects experience.
In his article, Parsing and working memory in bilingual sentence processing , Cunnings invites us to consider the hypothesis that important differences in how L1 and L2 populations process sentences stem from differences in how these speakers store and retrieve linguistic encodings in memory during the course of sentence comprehension (Cunnings, 2016). Specifically, he proposes that L2 speakers are more susceptible to similarity-based retrieval interference than their L1 counterparts, and L2 speakers weight discourse cues more heavily than syntactic cues when resolving open linguistic dependencies via memory retrieval. I find these to be interesting hypotheses that merit further investigation, especially in light of the prominence that these issues currently enjoy in L1 processing research. Nonetheless, I sound a note of caution: these claims go quite a bit beyond what is currently known, either theoretically or empirically. This makes support for these claims weak at present, but happily, this state of affairs offers clear directions for future research.
Heritage Spanish speakers and adult immigrant bilinguals listened to wh-questions with the differential object marker a ( quién / a quién ‘who/who ACC ’) while their eye movements across four referent pictures were tracked. The heritage speakers were less accurate than the adult immigrants in their verbal responses to the questions, leaving objects unmarked for case at a rate of 18%, but eye movement data suggested that the two groups were similar in their comprehension, with both starting to look at the target picture at the same point in the question and identifying the target sooner with a quién ‘who ACC ’ than with quién ‘who’ questions.
This eye-tracking study establishes basic benchmarks of eye movements during reading in heritage language (HL) by Russian-speaking adults and adolescents of high (n = 21) and low proficiency (n = 27). Heritage speakers (HSs) read sentences in Cyrillic, and their eye movements were compared to those of Russian monolingual skilled adult readers, 8-year-old children and L2 learners. Reading patterns of HSs revealed longer mean fixation durations, lower skipping probabilities, and higher regressive saccade rates than in monolingual adults. High-proficient HSs were more similar to monolingual children, while low-proficient HSs performed on par with L2 learners. Low-proficient HSs differed from high-proficient HSs in exhibiting lower skipping probabilities, higher fixation counts, and larger frequency effects. Taken together, our findings are consistent with the weaker links account of bilingual language processing as well as the divergent attainment theory of HL.
This study aimed to examine the so-called bilingual advantage in older adults' performance in three cognitive domains and to identify whether language use and bilingual type (dominant vs. balanced) predicted performance. The participants were 106 Spanish-English bilinguals ranging in age from 50 years to 84 years. Three cognitive domains were examined (each by a single test): inhibition (the Simon task), alternating attention (the Trail Making test), and working memory (Month Ordering). The data revealed that age was negatively correlated to performance in each domain. Bilingual type - balanced vs. dominant - predicted performance and interacted with age only on the inhibition measure (the Simon task). Balanced bilinguals showed age-related inhibition decline (i.e., greater Simon effect with increasing age); in contrast, dominant bilinguals showed little or no age-related change. The findings suggest that bilingualism may offer cognitive advantage in older age only for a subset of bilinguals.
We examined the association between bilingualism, executive function (EF), and brain volume in older monolinguals and bilinguals who spoke English, Spanish, or both, and were cognitively normal (CN) or diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) or dementia. Gray matter volume (GMV) was higher in language and EF brain regions among bilinguals, but no differences were found in memory regions. Neuropsychological performance did not vary across language groups over time; however, bilinguals exhibited reduced Stroop interference and lower scores on Digit Span Backwards and category fluency. Higher scores on Digit Span Backwards were associated with a younger age of English acquisition, and a greater degree of balanced bilingualism was associated with lower scores in category fluency. The initial age of cognitive decline did not differ between language groups. The influence of bilingualism appears to be reflected in increased GMV in language and EF regions, and to a lesser degree, in EF.
This study examines the production of consonant clusters in simultaneous Polish–English bilingual children and in language-matched English monolinguals (aged 7;01–8;11). Selection of the language pair was based on the fact that Polish allows a greater range of consonant clusters than English. A nonword repetition task was devised in order to examine clusters of different types (obstruent-liquid vs. s + obstruent) and in different word positions (initial vs. medial), two factors that play a significant role in repetition accuracy in monolingual acquisition (e.g., Kirk & Demuth, 2005). Our findings show that bilingual children outperformed monolingual controls in the word initial s + obstruent condition. These results indicate that exposure to complex word initial clusters (in Polish) can accelerate the development of less phonologically complex clusters (in English). This constitutes significant new evidence that the facilitatory effects of bilingual acquisition extend to structural phonological domains. The implications that these results have on competing views of phonological organisation and phonological complexity are also discussed.
This study investigated the effects of L2 learning experience in relation to L1 background on hemispheric processing of Japanese pitch accent. Native Mandarin Chinese (tonal L1) and English (non-tonal L1) learners of Japanese were tested using dichotic listening. These listener groups were compared with those recruited in Wu, Tu & Wang (2012), including native Mandarin and English listeners without Japanese experience and native Japanese listeners. Results revealed an overall right-hemisphere preference across groups, suggesting acoustically oriented processing. Individual pitch accent patterns also revealed pattern-specific laterality differences, further reflecting acoustic-level processing. However, listener group differences indicated L1 effects, with the Chinese but not English listeners approximating the Japanese patterns. Furthermore, English learners but not naïve listeners exhibited a shift towards the native direction, revealing effects of L2 learning. These findings imply integrated effects of acoustic and linguistic aspects on Japanese pitch accent processing as a function of L1 and L2 experience.
Listeners can adapt to errors in foreign-accented speech, but not all errors are alike. We investigated whether exposure to unsystematic tone errors in second language Mandarin impacts responses to accurately produced words. Native Mandarin speakers completed a cross-modal priming task with words produced by foreign-accented talkers who either produced consistently correct tones, or frequent tone errors. Facilitation from primes bearing correct tones was unaffected by the presence of tone errors elsewhere in the talker's speech. However, primes bearing tone errors inhibited recognition of real words and elicited stronger accentedness ratings. We consider theoretical implications for tone in foreign-accent adaptation.
This study examined electrophysiological correlates of sentence comprehension of native-accented and foreign-accented speech in a second language (L2), for sentences produced in a foreign accent different from that associated with the listeners' L1. Bilingual speaker-listeners process different accents in their L2 conversations, but the effects on real-time L2 sentence comprehension are unknown. Dutch–English bilinguals listened to native American-English accented sentences and foreign (and for them unfamiliarly-accented) Chinese-English accented sentences while EEG was recorded. Behavioral sentence comprehension was highly accurate for both native-accented and foreign-accented sentences. ERPs showed different patterns for L2 grammar and semantic processing of native- and foreign-accented speech. For grammar, only native-accented speech elicited an Nref. For semantics, both native- and foreign-accented speech elicited an N400 effect, but with a delayed onset across both accent conditions. These findings suggest that the way listeners comprehend native- and foreign-accented sentences in their L2 depends on their familiarity with the accent.
We investigated the speech patterns and accentedness of Polish–English bilingual children raised in Great Britain to verify whether their L1 Polish would be perceived as different from that of monolinguals matched for age and socioeconomic status. To this end, Polish-language speech samples of 32 bilinguals and 10 monolinguals (a 3:1 ratio, M Age = 5.79) were phonetically analysed by trained phoneticians and rated by 55 Polish raters, who assessed the degree of native accent, intelligibility, acceptability and perceived age. The results show significant differences in the phonetic performance of bilingual and monolingual children – both in terms of atypical speech patterns uncovered in the phonetic analysis and in terms of the holistic accentedness ratings. We also explored the socio-linguistic predictors of accent ratings in bilingual speech and found that the amount of L1 Polish input was the main predictor of accentedness in children's L1 Polish speech, while L2 English input was marginally significant. (149)
Contrastive pitch accents benefit native English speakers’ memory for discourse by enhancing a representation of a specific relevant contrast item (Fraundorf et al., 2010). This study examines whether and how second language (L2) listeners differ in how contrastive accents affect their encoding and representation of a discourse, as compared to native speakers. Using the same materials as Fraundorf et al. (2010), we found that low and mid proficiency L2 learners showed no memory benefit from contrastive accents. High proficiency L2 learners revealed some sensitivity to contrastive accents, but failed to fully integrate information conveyed by contrastive accents into their discourse representation. The results suggest that L2 listeners’ non-native performance in processing contrastive accents, observed in this and other prior studies, may be attributed at least in part to a difference in the depth of processing of the information conveyed by contrastive accents.
A bilingual exhibits a “semantic accent” when they comprehend or use a word in one language in a way that is influenced by its translation. Semantic accents are well-captured by feature-based models: however, few studies have specifically examined the processing of features that contribute to a semantic accent. Japanese–English bilinguals and monolinguals of each language completed three feature-based tasks focusing on culture-specific semantic features. Bilinguals exhibited semantic accents in L1 and L2 in that they had stronger associations than monolinguals between the features specific to one culture and words in the other language. Within bilinguals, culture-specific features were more strongly associated with the congruent language than the incongruent language. Finally, changes in the strengths of associations between culture-specific features and words depended more on L2 cultural immersion than L2 proficiency. Semantic accents lessened in L2 and increased in L1 after many years of exposure to the L2 culture.