The Effect of Bilingualism on Cognition: Evidence from late language learners.
Final dissertation copy.docx (289.8Kb)
Item statusRestricted Access
MetadataShow full item record
Previous research demonstrates that early acquisitioned bilingualism affects linguistic and cognitive performance. The effect on linguistic task performance generally shows costs, however cognitive task performance has been shown to enhance executive functioning (Bialystok, 2001, 2009). The purpose of this study was to determine if the previously documented cognitive gains in early acquisition bilinguals can also be found in later acquisition L2 learners. Also, if these differences are maintained, are such changes dependent on levels of proficiency in L2, number of languages exposed to and other potentially interacting variables. A 2x2 ANOVA was used to assess the cognitive performance of 119 native English speaking undergraduate university students from first and fourth year (chosen to maximize the difference between proficiency levels). In order to measure proficiency levels, inhibition, switching and verbal fluency (VF), test scores for picture naming, Test of Everyday Attention (TEA) and Verbal and Category Fluency were compared between monolingual matched controls (English, N=46) and late L2 learners (Italian N=32 and Spanish N= 41). The influence of number of languages spoken, musical ability and other potentially interacting variables was examined. Results support previous research; L2 learners were found to show linguistic costs and cognitive gains on inhibition and switching task performance. No differences were found on Picture naming. Levels of proficiency on the bilingual effect were shown independently of other potential confounding factors such as number of spoken languages and musical abilities. Limitations of the present study are addressed. Further directions to reveal the dynamics of the bilingual mind are suggested.