Greg Poarch (University of Münster) & Janet van Hell (Penn State University & Radboud University Nijmegen)
Executive functions; Simon task; ANT; Bilinguals; Trilinguals; Second language learners; Cross-language activation
This talk combines two studies on cross-language interaction and executive functions in child L2 learners, and bilingual and multilingual children (1,2) and builds empirically on the emerging data on cross-language interaction during lexical access in adult bilinguals (e.g., 3, 4) and findings of enhanced cognitive functions in conflict resolution tasks (Simon Task; Attentional Networks Task) in child bilinguals compared to monolinguals (e.g., 5, 6, 7). In Study 1, using a picture naming paradigm with cognate manipulation, a bidirectional cognate facilitation effect was found in bilinguals and trilinguals but not in child L2 learners, in whom only the stronger L1 influenced the weaker L2. In Study 2, the Simon effect advantage differed across groups with bilinguals and trilinguals showing enhanced conflict resolution over monolinguals and marginally so over second language learners. In the ANT, the bilinguals and trilinguals displayed enhanced conflict resolution over second language learners. As enhanced executive functions in bilingual children are assumed to stem from their permanent need to monitor, control, and shift between two languages, and that bidirectional cross-language activation is modulated by relative language proficiency and use, one may assume that both cross-language activation and cognitive control develop in parallel along the same trajectory. Thus viewed together, the results of both studies may indicate parallel development of relative language proficiency and corresponding cross-language activation, on the one hand, and an enhanced development of executive functions, on the other hand.
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