Bilingual influence on cognitive processes related to linguistic abilities in school-age children

Open Access
Park, Ji Sook
Graduate Program:
Communication Sciences and Disorders
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
August 05, 2014
Committee Members:
  • Carol Anne Miller, Dissertation Advisor
  • Carol Anne Miller, Committee Chair
  • Kathryn D R Drager, Committee Member
  • Krista M Wilkinson, Committee Member
  • Judith Fran Kroll, Committee Member
  • Elina Mainela Arnold, Special Member
  • Cognitive processes
  • linguistic abilities
  • bilingualism
  • procedural learning
  • attention
  • processing speed
  • Serial Reaction Time
The overall aim of the current study was to investigate 1) whether typically-developing monolingual/bilingual children share the same cognitive processes for language performance and whether the children employ these cognitive processes to the same degree, and 2) whether these shared mechanisms differ by language experience (monolingual exposure as opposed to bilingual exposure). This work will contribute to efforts to determine which cognitive processes underlie language abilities, and how these processes are influenced by language experiences in bilingual environments. The findings may serve to further determine which cognitive processes could identify language impairment in bilingual children and determine whether bilingualism would be beneficial for bilingual children with language impairment. Typically developing children at two different locations, State College and Toronto, participated in the cross-sectional study. One group of these children was 22 monolinguals (N = 15 in State College and N = 7 in Toronto). The other group was 20 bilinguals (N = 7 in State College and N = 13 in Toronto). Accuracy and reaction times were obtained from three cognitive tasks: the Serial Reaction time task, Attention Network Test, and Visual Choice Decision task. Each task was used to measure procedural learning, attention, and processing speed ability, respectively. Hierarchical linear regression models suggested that Procedural Learning predicted Core Language Score and Concepts and Following Directions scores in the bilingual group but not in the monolingual group. Among the three attentional network measures, Orienting predicted Word Classes-Receptive across groups in a similar manner. Processing Speed predicted Recalling Sentences in monolingual children but not in bilingual peers. These cognitive processes did not differ by language experience, in comparison between the two groups. However, a post hoc analysis suggested that within the bilingual group, variability of dual language exposure explained processing speed but did not explain the other measures. We conclude that dual language experience changes the relationship between cognitive processes and language abilities but some cognitive processes such as procedural learning might be less modified by language experience than other cognitive processes such as processing speed. The future studies should focus on whether procedural learning can be used to identify language impairment and whether an advantage of processing speed could be observed in bilingual children with language impairment. These lines of research would help us to develop diagnostic tools as well as intervention in bilingual settings.