This week Juergen and I will lead discussion of Panos Athanasopoulos’ two papers on the effects of bilingualism on cognition. The articles are available on the UBlearns site. Below I’ve provided the abstracts:
Effects of the grammatical representation of number on cognition in bilinguals (Language & Cognition. 9(1): 89-96.)Research investigating the relationship between language and cognition (Lucy, 1992b) shows that speakers of languages with grammatical number marking (e.g. English) judge differences in the number of countable objects as more significant than differences in the number or amount of non-countable substances. On the other hand, speakers of languages which lack grammatical number marking (e.g. Yucatec) show no such preference. The current paper extends Lucy’s (1992b) investigation, comparing monolingual English and Japanese speakers with Japanese speakers of English as a second language (L2). Like Yucatec, Japanese is a non-plural-marking language. Results show that intermediate L2 speakers behave similarly to the Japanese monolinguals while advanced L2 speakers behave similarly to the English monolinguals. The results (a) provide support for the claim that grammatical representation may influence cognition in specific ways and (b) suggest that L2 acquisition may alter cognitive dispositions established by a first language (L1).
Cognitive representation of colour in bilinguals: The case of Greek blues (Language & Cognition. 12(1): 83-95.)A number of recent studies demonstrate that bilinguals with languages that differ in grammatical and lexical categories may shift their cognitive representation of those categories towards that of monolingual speakers of their second language. The current paper extended that investigation to the domain of colour in Greek–English bilinguals with different levels of bilingualism, and English monolinguals. Greek differentiates the blue region of colour space into a darker shade called ble and a lighter shade called ghalazio. Results showed a semantic shift of category prototypes with level of bilingualism and acculturation, while the way bilinguals judged the perceptual similarity between within- and cross-category stimulus pairs depended strongly on the availability of the relevant colour terms in semantic memory, and the amount of time spent in the L2-speaking country. These results suggest that cognition is tightly linked to semantic memory for specific linguistic categories, and to cultural immersion in the L2-speaking country.