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1.  Effects of Classroom Bilingualism on Task Shifting, Verbal Memory, and Word Learning in Children 
Developmental science  2014;17(4):564-583.
We examined the effects of classroom bilingual experience in children on an array of cognitive skills. Monolingual English-speaking children were compared with children who spoke English as the native language and who had been exposed to Spanish in the context of dual-immersion schooling for an average of two years. The groups were compared on a measure of non-linguistic task-shifting; measures of verbal short-term and working memory; and measures of word-learning. The two groups of children did not differ on measures of non-linguistic task-shifting and verbal short-term memory. However, the classroom-exposure bilingual group outperformed the monolingual group on the measure of verbal working memory and a measure of word-learning. Together, these findings indicate that while exposure to a second language in a classroom setting may not be sufficient to engender changes in cognitive control, it can facilitate verbal memory and verbal learning.
PMCID: PMC4224028  PMID: 24576079
bilingualism; dual-immersion; cognitive control; verbal learning
2.  Word learning in adults with second language experience: Effects of phonological and referent familiarity 
The goal of this research was to examine whether phonological familiarity exerts different effects on novel word learning for familiar vs. unfamiliar referents, and whether successful word-learning is associated with increased second-language experience.
Eighty-one adult native English speakers with various levels of Spanish knowledge learned phonologically-familiar novel words (constructed using English sounds) or phonologically-unfamiliar novel words (constructed using non-English and non-Spanish sounds) in association with either familiar or unfamiliar referents. Retention was tested via a forced-choice recognition-task. A median-split procedure identified high-ability and low-ability word-learners in each condition, and the two groups were compared on measures of second-language experience.
Findings suggest that the ability to accurately match newly-learned novel names to their appropriate referents is facilitated by phonological familiarity only for familiar referents but not for unfamiliar referents. Moreover, more extensive second-language learning experience characterized superior learners primarily in one word-learning condition: Where phonologically-unfamiliar novel words were paired with familiar referents.
Together, these findings indicate that phonological familiarity facilitates novel word learning only for familiar referents, and that experience with learning a second language may have a specific impact on novel vocabulary learning in adults.
PMCID: PMC4266995  PMID: 22992709
3.  Gender Differences in Child Word Learning 
In prior work with adults, women were found to outperform men on a paired-associates word-learning task, but only when learning phonologically-familiar novel words. The goal of the present work was to examine whether similar gender differences in word learning would be observed in children. In addition to manipulating phonological familiarity, referent familiarity was also manipulated. Children between the ages of 5 and 7 learned phonologically-familiar or phonologically-unfamiliar novel words in association with pictures of familiar referents (animals) or unfamiliar referents (aliens). Retention was tested via a forced-choice recognition measure administered immediately after the learning phase. Analyses of retention data revealed stronger phonological and referent familiarity effects in girls than in boys. Moreover, girls outperformed boys only when learning phonologically-familiar novel words and when learning novel words in association with familiar referents. These findings are interpreted to suggest that females are more likely than males to recruit native-language phonological and semantic knowledge during novel word learning.
PMCID: PMC3769140  PMID: 24039377
word learning; gender differences; phonology; semantics
4.  The relationship between linguistic and non-linguistic cognitive control skills in bilingual children from low socio-economic backgrounds 
Frontiers in Psychology  2014;5:1098.
The present study examined whether linguistic cognitive control skills were related to non-linguistic cognitive control skills in monolingual children (Study 1) and in bilingual children from low socio-economic status (SES) backgrounds (Study 2). Linguistic inhibitory control was measured using a grammaticality judgment (GJ) task in which children judged the grammaticality of sentences while ignoring their meaning. Non-linguistic inhibitory control was measured using a flanker task. Study 1, in which we tested monolingual English-speaking children, revealed that better inhibitory control skills, as indexed by the performance on the flanker task, were associated with improved performance on the GJ task. Study 2, in which we tested bilingual English-Spanish speaking children from low SES backgrounds, revealed that better non-linguistic inhibitory control skills did not yield better performance on the GJ task. Together, these findings point to a role of domain-general attention mechanisms in language performance in typically developing monolingual children, but not in bilingual children from low SES. Present results suggest that the relationship between linguistic and domain-general cognitive-control abilities is instantiated differently in bilingual vs. monolingual children, and that language-EF interactions are sensitive to language status and SES.
PMCID: PMC4176081  PMID: 25309499
bilingualism; SES; syntactic processing; semantics; cognitive control
5.  The Effect of Second-Language Experience on Native-Language Processing 
Previous work on bilingual language processing indicates that native-language skills can influence second-language acquisition. The goal of the present work was to examine the influence of second-language experiences on native-language vocabulary and reading skills in two groups of bilingual speakers. English-Spanish and English-Mandarin bilingual adults were tested on vocabulary knowledge and reading fluency in English, their native language. Participants also provided detailed information regarding their history of second-language acquisition, including age of L2 acquisition, degree of L2 exposure, L2 proficiency, and preference of L2 use. Comparisons across the two bilingual groups revealed that both groups performed similarly on native-language vocabulary and reading measures. However, in English-Spanish bilinguals, higher self-reported reading skills in Spanish were associated with higher English reading-fluency scores, while in English-Mandarin bilinguals, higher self-reported reading skills in Mandarin were associated with lower English reading-fluency scores. These findings suggest that second-language experiences influence native-language performance, and can facilitate or reduce it depending on the properties of the second-language writing system.
PMCID: PMC3484981  PMID: 23125864
L2 experience; vocabulary; reading fluency; bilingualism; transfer
6.  Gender Differences in Adult Word Learning 
Acta psychologica  2011;137(1):24-35.
In prior work, women were found to outperform men on short-term verbal memory tasks. The goal of the present work was to examine whether gender differences on short-term memory tasks are tied to the involvement of long-term memory in the learning process. In Experiment 1, men and women were compared on their ability to remember phonologically-familiar novel words and phonologically-unfamiliar novel words. Learning of phonologically-familiar novel words (but not of phonologically-unfamiliar novel words) can be supported by long-term phonological knowledge. Results revealed that women outperformed men on phonologically-familiar novel words, but not on phonologically-unfamiliar novel words. In Experiment 2, we replicated Experiment 1 using a within-subjects design, and confirmed gender differences on phonologically-familiar, but not phonologically-unfamiliar stimuli. These findings are interpreted to suggest that women are more likely than men to recruit native-language phonological knowledge during novel word-learning.
PMCID: PMC3080468  PMID: 21392726
gender differences; word learning; phonology; short-term memory
7.  The relationship between vocabulary and short-term memory measures in monolingual and bilingual speakers 
Previous studies have indicated that bilingualism may influence the efficiency of lexical access in adults. The goals of this research were (1) to compare bilingual and monolingual adults on their native-language vocabulary performance, and (2) to examine the relationship between short-term memory skills and vocabulary performance in monolinguals and bilinguals. In Experiment 1, English-speaking monolingual adults and simultaneous English–Spanish bilingual adults were administered measures of receptive English vocabulary and of phonological short-term memory. In Experiment 2, monolingual adults were compared to sequential English–Spanish bilinguals, and were administered the same measures as in Experiment 1, as well as a measure of expressive English vocabulary. Analyses revealed comparable levels of performance on the vocabulary and the short-term memory measures in the monolingual and the bilingual groups across both experiments. There was a stronger effect of digit-span in the bilingual group than in the monolingual group, with high-span bilinguals outperforming low-span bilinguals on vocabulary measures. Findings indicate that bilingual speakers may rely on short-term memory resources to support word retrieval in their native language more than monolingual speakers.
PMCID: PMC3328198  PMID: 22518091
sequential bilinguals; short-term memory; simultaneous bilinguals; vocabulary
8.  Words, feelings, and bilingualism 
The mental lexicon  2008;3(1):72-90.
Cross-linguistic differences in emotionality of autobiographical memories were examined by eliciting memories of immigration from bilingual speakers. Forty-seven Russian-English bilinguals were asked to recount their immigration experiences in either Russian or English. Bilinguals used more emotion words when describing their immigration experiences in the second language (English) than in the first language (Russian). Bilinguals' immigration narratives contained more negative emotion words than positive emotion words. In addition, language preference (but not language proficiency) influenced results, with emotional expression amplified when speaking in the preferred language. These findings carry implications for organization of the bilingual lexicon and the special status of emotion words within it. We suggest that bilinguals' expression of emotion may vary across languages and that the linguistic and affective systems are interconnected in the bilingual cognitive architecture.
PMCID: PMC2788822  PMID: 19966924

Results 1-8 (8)