Linguistic experience and its effect on cognition.
The following post by Dr. Aneta Pavlenko appeared on the Psychology Today blog, “Life as a bilingual”
Like all other walks of life, academia is not immune to fashions. In the study of bilingualism, one such trend has been the study of “the bilingual cognitive advantage”, the theory that experience of using two languages – and selecting one, while inhibiting the other – affects brain structure and strengthens ‘executive control’ akin to other experiences, such as musical training, navigation, and even juggling. This strengthening has been linked to a variety of findings: the superiority of bilingual children and adults in performance on tasks requiring cognitive control, resistance of bilingual brains to cognitive decline, and the delayed onset of dementia (see here).
Touted in the popular media, these findings captured our hearts and minds and for good reason: for those of us who are bi- and multilingual, this is good news and the focus itself is a pleasant change from concerns about bilingual disadvantage that permeated many early debates on bilingualism. But has the pendulum swung too much in the other direction? Has bilingualism become a commodity we are trying to sell, instead of an experience we are trying to understand? And is there, in fact, a consensus that the knowledge of more than one language offers us something more than the joys of reading and conversing in two languages and a leg up in learning the third, among other things?
For the remainder of the post, please click here
Baum, S. & Titone D. (2014). Moving towards a neuroplasticity view of bilingualism, executive control, and aging. Applied Psycholinguistics, 35, 857-894.
Valian, V. (2014, in press) Bilingualism and cognition. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition.
Youngsters who speak two languages maintain their focus better than monolinguals
A new study, published in the journal Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, has found that bilingual primary school children learn more effectively than monolinguals within noisy environments such as classrooms.
Anglia Ruskin University’s Dr Roberto Filippi carried out research in Cambridge primary schools, focusing on children aged between seven and 10.
The study discovered that bilingual children were more able to maintain focus on a main task, which in this case was the identification of the subject within a short sentence in the presence of noise.
Pupils who only speak one language did not reach the same level of efficiency, showing that noise negatively affects their ability to sustain attention, especially when comprehending more difficult sentences.
Dr Filippi, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Anglia Ruskin, said: “Previous research has shown that bilingualism has a positive effect on cognitive abilities, but there were no studies investigated whether these advantages extended to learning in noisy environments.
“Primary schools are the key stages for the development of formal learning in the first years of life. However, they are also remarkably noisy. Therefore the ability to filter out auditory interference is particularly important within the context of an educational environment.”
Dr Filippi was joined by international researchers from Birkbeck in London and the Northwestern University in Chicago. The study provides further evidence of the importance of learning a second language early in the UK educational system.
Following the findings of the study, the researchers have applied to the Leverhulme Trust for funding to conduct large-scale research in this area which will survey people of all ages in an attempt to track how bilingualism affects the brain throughout a person’s development.
Co-Editor of Bilingualism: Language and Cognition Dr Jubin Abutalebi comments “The elegant research carried out by Dr. Filippi and coworkers addresses an important field of enquiry within developmental psychology. In their contribution, the authors report that bilingual children have superior performance in controlling verbal interference as compared to their monolingual peers. However, as the authors underline this effect is dependent on how good bilingual children master their two languages. Dr. Abutalebi, one of the editors of ‘Bilingualism: Language and Cognition’, notes that this study may further add crucial evidence to the controversy surrounding research questions such as if and eventually how bilingualism enhances cognitive functions.”
Read the entire article ‘Bilingual children show an advantage in controlling verbal interference during spoken language comprehension’ here
Post written by Ping Li based on a recent article in the journal Bilingualism: Language and Cognition
Language history question-naire (LHQ) is an important tool for assessing the linguistic background of language learners (background), the context and habits of language use (usage), proficiency in multiple languages (proficiency), and dominance and cultural identity of the acquired languages (dominance). Outcomes from such assessments have often been used to predict or correlate with learners’ linguistic performance in cognitive and behavioral tests. Previous researchers have often relied on LHQs that their own research groups develop, depending on whether their study is concerned with the background, usage, proficiency, or dominance of the bilingual learner. The lack of a standardized, easy-to-use, and web-based LHQ inspired some researchers to develop such a tool for bilingual research (see Li, Sepanski, & Zhao, 2006). In the LHQ 2.0, we have further developed an enhanced interface that takes advantage of the dynamic web technology, which has the following new features as compared with the original LHQ: more flexibility in functionality, more accuracy in data recording and retrieval, and more privacy for users and data.
With respect to flexibility, LHQ 2.0 allows researchers to customize their own questions depending on whether they are interested in one or a combination of the participant’s language history: background, usage, proficiency, and dominance. Additionally, the participants can complete the entire or customized LHQ online with unique experiment and participant IDs. LHQ 2.0 also has a multi-language function that allows the participant to complete questions in the native or the preferred language, including English, Chinese (simplified or traditional forms), Spanish, French, German, and Turkish (and more to come). Thus, investigators can dynamically construct individualized LHQs on the fly and collect data from a large number of individual participants simultaneously.
With respect to accuracy, LHQ 2.0 eliminates the need of traditional data entry with papers and pencils, and the potential errors during the time-consuming manual coding of handwritten results. Once the participant completes the LHQ, all the data are stored automatically in a spreadsheet, and the data are accumulated (and updated) in the order in which the questions are answered. Investigators can track the progress of the LHQ data collection, and download or delete the data at any point during the study.
With respect to privacy, LHQ 2.0 stores no personal information of the participant but rather, collects the data through automatically generated unique ID numbers for each study (and the participants), and through password-protected access to data. Researchers can (1) access their data in the cloud uniquely stored in their own account, (2) update necessary information associated with the study, (3) retrieve the data, and finally, (4) at the conclusion of the study, delete the data permanently.
A large number of investigators have already used the LHQ 2.0 in the past year, and we welcome comments and suggestions from all users. Please visit http://blclab.org/language-history-questionnaire/ and use the LHQ 2.0 today!
Access the entire article ‘Language history questionnaire (LHQ 2.0): A new dynamic web-based research tool’ without charge here
Bilingualism: Language and Cognition (BLC) is now in its seventeenth year and has become the leading journal in its field enjoying a steady increase in readership and submissions. The 2012 Impact Factor mirrors this upsurge of interest. BLC’s 2012 Impact Factor is quoted as 2.229, which makes it the 5th ranked out of 160 journals in linguistics and the 27th out of 83 experimental psychology journals.
Starting from 2014, a new editorial team will officially be in charge of managing BLC. The new team consists of the two new editors-in-chief, Jubin Abutalebi and Harald Clahsen. The two new editors-in-chief have different academic backgrounds that reflect the breadth of research to be covered by BLC: Dr. Abutalebi mainly in (cognitive) neuroscience and Dr. Clahsen mainly in (psycho)linguistics. The editors-in-chief are assisted by four associate editors, Debra Jared, Robert de Keyser, Ludovica Serratrice and Natasha Tokowicz, and two editorial assistants, Clare Patterson and Lucia Guidi.
Authors will notice changes to the submission and reviewing procedures. To make more efficient use of the limited space in BLC and to reduce the workload for our reviewers, the new editorial team has introduced strict length limitations for new submissions. The editors would also like to highlight that Research Notes are particularly appropriate for the rapid dissemination of new findings and ideas, as final decisions on Research Notes will be taken no later than six weeks after submission, normally after only one round of reviewing.
The new editorial team has also introduced a two-stage reviewing process. The first stage consists of an in-house review aimed to triage and return any inappropriate manuscripts within two weeks of submission. Papers that are deemed suitable in terms of content and quality will enter the second stage and go out for external review.
Last but not least, the reader will notice an immediate visible change of BLC: the new cover! Indeed, BLC gets a fresh look and the editors underline that the new cover reflects the true essence of BLC: the representation and processing of bilingualism and multilingualism in the individual.
You can view the full Editorial Board and Instructions for Contributors on the journals homepage
Post written by Pieter Muysken based on an article in the latest issue of Bilingualism
I am very happy and proud that my paper ‘Language contact outcomes as the result of bilingual optimization strategies’ was published in the journal Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, with some very interesting and challenging commentaries. The paper was in the making for more than a decade, and went through numerous versions. I think the journal asked for revisions about six times (final acceptance is a consolation for other authors perhaps in despair about a firm but just journal editor and very skeptical reviewers). I hope it will point people in new directions, even if it does not convince them, and stimulate new discussions.
If you ask me to summarize the paper, here goes:
Outcomes of language contact, like code-switching or Creole genesis, are not uniform, but vary, depending on the status and properties of the languages involved and the similarities between them. Thus there is a type of code-switching in which a single language plays the major role, and another type where speakers go back and forth between languages in a more balanced manner. Yet other types of switching involve very similar languages, which are blended together in inextricable ways. Similarly, in some Creole languages an originally African or Melanesian substrate language plays a major structural role, while others are more similar to a dominant European language that provided most of the vocabulary. Yet others resemble neither source language and seem the result of universal strategies. However, the patterns along which the outcomes of language contact vary are similar, I argue, across a number of different subfields in language contact, also including pidgin genesis, second language learning, bilingual processing, lexical and structural borrowing, bilingual interaction, etc. These patterns can be modeled into a single framework of speakers’ strategies, and interpreted grammatically using a version of Optimality Theory. As such it is one of several attempts to sue Optimality Theory to model language contact results.
Read the entire article ‘Language contact outcomes as the result of bilingual optimization strategies’ here.
Bilingualism: Language and Cognition’s 2013 Special Issue features computational modeling studies of bilingualism and second language acquisition. Seven research papers illustrate seven different but highly related computational models designed to understand the workings of the bilingual mind from a cognitive science perspective. This Special Issue fills a large gap in the literature, in that the specific, algorithmically implemented, models of bilingualism provide a good variety of computational architectures, cover a range of theoretical issues, and analyze both spoken and written languages across different bilingual populations. Moreover, they integrate theories and mechanisms of learning, representation, and development in order to account for a variety of phenomena, in bilingual aphasia, lexical memory, word translation, grammatical acquisition, speech perception, and reading development.
Readers of this Special Issue will be convinced that computational models have much to offer to the understanding of the bilingual mind, over and beyond what general verbal, hypothesis-driven, models can do. Implementation of computational models forces the researcher to be very explicit about their hypotheses, predictions, materials, and testing procedures, and at the same time, gives the flexibility of parameter selection and reliability of testing that are often not found in empirical studies. Indeed, the potential of a bilingual computational model lies in its ability to identify gaps in experimental designs, and in systematic manipulation of variables such as age of acquisition (early vs. late), proficiency (high vs. low), and memory resources (large vs. small), variables that may be naturally confounded in experimental or realistic learning situations.
The seven models presented in this Special Issue demonstrate the advantages and the need for developing more computational models of bilingualism, as they deepen our understanding of the complex interactive mechanisms involved in the acquisition and processing of multiple competing linguistic systems. For example, the effects of dynamic interactions in the competing languages at different times of learning can be clearly simulated, providing alternative accounts of the critical period effects from the perspectives of competition, entrenchment, and plasticity. These models examine the extent to which early learning impacts later learning and the extent later learning can soften or even reverse early-learned structures. In addition to simulating known patterns in the empirical data, the computational models presented here will also inform theories of bilingualism by making distinct predictions under different hypotheses or conditions. In so doing, they will provide a new forum for generating novel ideas, inspiring new experiments, and helping formulate new theories.
Blog post written by Ping Li, Pennsylvania State University, USA
Read the entire special issue without charge until the 30th April 2013
Cambridge Journals Online launched in 1997, and one and a half decades later continues to evolve. At Cambridge Journals, we’re extremely proud of what we’ve achieved over the past fifteen years. CJO is arguably as close to a tailor-made resource as you’ll find in academic publishing. Developed, built and maintained by a crack team of software developers based in Manila. Nurtured and specified by in-house editors, marketers and production staff. Informed by consultation with journal editors, societies, academics and librarians. CJO is loaded with fresh new features three times a year, available on all platforms (including mobile), twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
For the next fifteen days (until the 3rd October) we’ve decided to make a birthday gift. Go to any journal homepage, and you’ll find a new, golden tab. There, the fifteen most-downloaded papers from that journal are available to read for free. We’ve done this for every single journal we publish. Make your way there by browsing our full list of Language and Linguistics journals. As well as being able to download papers to your desktop, or read them on your phone or tablet, you’ll be able to send papers to your Kindle to read at your leisure. Just look for the Send to Kindle links in the left hand article menu and in the headers.
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