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Bilingual Advantages

Contributions of Different Bilingual Experiences to Cognitive Control Differences Among Young-adult Bilinguals


Zhilong Xie

The question whether bilingualism is linked to benefits in cognitive control (executive functions) is intensely debated among linguists. While some studies come to the conclusion that bilingual individuals consistently outperform their monolingual counterparts on tasks involving cognitive control, other studies argue that there is no coherent evidence showing that bilingual advantages actually exist. This opposing view results from two inadequately investigated perspectives, namely the complexities of bilingualism and the multifaceted nature of cognitive control.
This publication combines these two perspectives and presents a new approach towards the analysis of bilingual advantage. It discusses the results of a combined analysis of both specific bilingual experiences and specific aspects of cognitive control.
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Chapter 1: Bilingual Experience and Cognitive Control


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Chapter 1:    Bilingual Experience and Cognitive Control

More and more people in this world today are speaking two (or more) languages. Speaking two languages makes language processing very complicated. Moreover, managing two languages places huge demands on the cognitive system and therefore may affect many aspects of cognitive development. Accumulating evidence has shown that bilingual experience has a systematic and significant impact on cognitive control. What remains unresolved is how a specific bilingual experience contributes to changes of cognitive control. The current research intends to shed light on this issue.

1.1   Introduction

Some early studies (e.g., Saer, 1923; Smith, 1923) report that learning two languages is detrimental to bilingual learners’ intelligence. In later years, it was reported that the vocabulary size of monolinguals is larger than that of bilinguals in that language (Pearson, Fernandez, & Oller, 1993). This result is also supported by a more recent study (Bialystok, Luk, Peets, & Yang, 2010), which finds that the mean standard of monolinguals is reliably higher than that of compared bilinguals. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that learning two languages may cause some disadvantages to bilinguals.

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