Broadly defined, the proposed project centers on the relationship between language and cognition, focusing on the consequences of bilingualism for cognitive, linguistic, and developmental processes. The objective of the present work is to understand how using more than one language changes cognitive architecture and impacts general cognitive function. Our previous research demonstrates that auditory input co-activates both languages in parallel during bilingual spoken comprehension via bottom-up cascading activation. Using an interactive activation framework, the proposed project further advances understanding of bilingual spoken language processing by examining the role of top-down activation and the interaction of top- down, bottom-up, and lateral activation during bilingual spoken language comprehension. Four studies utilize eye-movements and other behavioral measures to examine how bilinguals manage co-activation and interaction across the two languages, across modalities (e.g., between spoken and sign languages), across levels (e.g., between segmental and suprasegmental input), and in sentence context. The proposed research also examines cognitive consequences of bilingualism by establishing a direct link between cross-linguistic co- activation and inhibitory control. Theoretically, the proposed research contributes to understanding the complex relationship between language and cognition from the unique vantage point of bilingualism and specifies the interactive nature of top-down, bottom-up and lateral activation in the bilingual cognitive architecture. Addressing broader societal needs, this work has practical implications for the large segment of the American population who speaks a language other than English at home and for whom clinical and educational outcomes can be improved by capitalizing on the interaction and co-activation of two languages.

Public Health Relevance

The proportion of non-native English speakers in the United States is rapidly increasing, yet the changing demographic remains under-represented in basic and applied research, posing challenges for providing services to this rapidly-growing segment of the population. The overarching goal of this project is to understand how bilingualism impacts cognition and language and how knowing another language changes the architecture of the cognitive system. Four studies examine how bilinguals understand spoken language and how the two languages interact as a result of top-down, bottom- up, and lateral influences during comprehension. By specifically focusing on parallel activation and cross-linguistic interaction in bilingual language processing, this project advances our understanding of the human linguistic capacity, with implications for intervention strategies with bilinguals.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Research Project (R01)
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Study Section
Language and Communication Study Section (LCOM)
Program Officer
Miller, Brett
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Northwestern University at Chicago
Other Health Professions
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Blumenfeld, Henrike K; Bobb, Susan C; Marian, Viorica (2016) The role of language proficiency, cognate status and word frequency in the assessment of Spanish-English bilinguals' verbal fluency. Int J Speech Lang Pathol 18:190-201
Shook, Anthony; Marian, Viorica (2016) The influence of native-language tones on lexical access in the second language. J Acoust Soc Am 139:3102
Schroeder, Scott R; Marian, Viorica; Shook, Anthony et al. (2016) Bilingualism and Musicianship Enhance Cognitive Control. Neural Plast 2016:4058620
Bartolotti, James; Bradley, Kailyn; Hernandez, Arturo E et al. (2016) Neural signatures of second language learning and control. Neuropsychologia :
Freeman, Max R; Blumenfeld, Henrike K; Marian, Viorica (2016) Phonotactic Constraints Are Activated across Languages in Bilinguals. Front Psychol 7:702
Shook, Anthony; Goldrick, Matthew; Engstler, Caroline et al. (2015) Bilinguals Show Weaker Lexical Access During Spoken Sentence Comprehension. J Psycholinguist Res 44:789-802
Krizman, Jennifer; Slater, Jessica; Skoe, Erika et al. (2015) Neural processing of speech in children is influenced by extent of bilingual experience. Neurosci Lett 585:48-53
Giezen, Marcel R; Blumenfeld, Henrike K; Shook, Anthony et al. (2015) Parallel language activation and inhibitory control in bimodal bilinguals. Cognition 141:9-25
Chabal, Sarah; Schroeder, Scott R; Marian, Viorica (2015) Audio-visual object search is changed by bilingual experience. Atten Percept Psychophys 77:2684-93
Chabal, Sarah; Marian, Viorica (2015) Speakers of different languages process the visual world differently. J Exp Psychol Gen 144:539-50

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