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Open AccessArticle

Sequential Multilingualism and Cognitive Abilities: Preliminary Data on the Contribution of Language Proficiency and Use in Different Modalities

1
Department of Languages, Literature and Communication, Utrecht University, 3512 JE Utrecht, The Netherlands
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Department of Applied Linguistics, Groningen University & Department of Linguistics and English Language, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YW, UK
3
Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Long Island University, Brooklyn Campus, New York, NY 11968, USA
4
MultiLing/Department of Linguistics and Scandinavian Studies, University of Oslo, 0315 Oslo, Norway
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Behav. Sci. 2019, 9(9), 92; https://doi.org/10.3390/bs9090092
Received: 30 June 2019 / Revised: 20 August 2019 / Accepted: 20 August 2019 / Published: 26 August 2019
This exploratory study focuses on sequential bi-/multilinguals (specifically, nonimmigrant young Dutch native speakers who learned at least one foreign language (FL) at or after the age of 5) and investigates the impact of proficiency-based and amount-of-use-based degrees of multilingualism in different modalities (i.e., speaking, listening, writing, reading) on inhibition, disengagement of attention, and switching. Fifty-four participants completed a comprehensive background questionnaire, a nonverbal fluid intelligence task, a Flanker task, and the Trail Making Test. Correlational and regression analyses considering multilingualism related variables and other variables that may contribute to the cognitive abilities under investigation (e.g., years of formal education, socioeconomic status, physical activity, playing video-games) revealed that only proficiency-based degrees of multilingualism impacted cognitive abilities. Particularly, mean FL writing proficiency affected inhibition (i.e., significant positive flanker effect) and L2 listening proficiency influenced disengagement of attention (i.e., significant negative sequential congruency effect). Our findings suggest that only those speakers who have reached a certain proficiency threshold in more than one FL show a cognitive advantage, which, in our sample, emerged in inhibition only. Furthermore, our study suggests that, regarding the impact of proficiency-based degrees of multilingualism on cognitive abilities, for our participants the writing and listening modalities mattered most. View Full-Text
Keywords: multilingualism; cognitive abilities; inhibition; switching; disengagement of attention multilingualism; cognitive abilities; inhibition; switching; disengagement of attention
MDPI and ACS Style

Boumeester, M.; Michel, M.C.; Fyndanis, V. Sequential Multilingualism and Cognitive Abilities: Preliminary Data on the Contribution of Language Proficiency and Use in Different Modalities. Behav. Sci. 2019, 9, 92.

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