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Executive Function and Second Language Phonological Processing

Brandin Munson, Pilar Archila-Suerte and Arturo Hernandez (The University of Houston)


Executive function; fMRI; L1-L2 processing; Speech Perception; Spanish English

This fMRI study investigated neural activity evoked by L2 speech syllables in brain regions of executive function typically recruited by bilinguals in cognitive control tasks. The main areas examined were the bilateral anterior cingulate, bilateral supplementary motor area, bilateral inferior frontal gyrus, and bilateral middle frontal gyrus. Based on the degree of discrepancy between L1 and L2 proficiency scores, twenty-nine children classified as balanced (smaller discrepancy) or unbalanced (larger discrepancy) dual language learners were matched for age, socioeducational background, years of education in L2, and L2 age of acquisition. Children passively listened to L2 syllables while a muted film was presented. The results showed that unbalanced learners had increased activity in multiple frontal regions bilaterally relative to balanced learners. Balanced learners showed activity in a region of the right temporal lobe. The results suggest that unbalanced learners engage regions of executive function to support the processing of L2 speech perception.



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