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Bilingual and Monolingual First Language Acquisition Experience Differentially Shapes Children’s Property Term Learning: Evidence from Behavioral and Neurophysiological Measures

1,2,3,*, 3, 2,4,† and 2,5,†
1
Institute of Special Education, University of Leipzig, Marschnerstr. 29 e, 04109 Leipzig, Germany
2
Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Stephanstraße 1a, 04103 Leipzig, Germany
3
Department of Linguistics, University of Erfurt, Nordhäuser Straße 63, 99089 Erfurt, Germany
4
Clinic for Cognitive Neurology, Medical Faculty, University of Leipzig, Liebigstraße 16, 04103 Leipzig, Germany
5
Department for Hearing, Speech, and Voice Disorders, Medical University of Innsbruck, Anichstraße 35, A-6020 Innsbruck, Austria
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
These two authors contributed equally to this work.
Brain Sci. 2019, 9(2), 40; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci9020040
Received: 1 February 2019 / Accepted: 10 February 2019 / Published: 12 February 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Cognitive Neuroscience of Cross-Language Interaction in Bilinguals)
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Abstract

Studies of novel noun learning show bilingual children rely less on the Mutual Exclusivity Constraint (MEC) for word learning than monolinguals. Shifting the focus to learning novel property terms (adjectives), the present study compared 3.5- and five-year-old bilingual and monolingual preschoolers’ adherence to the MEC. We found no bilingual-monolingual differences on a behavioral forced-choice task for the 3.5-year-olds, but five-year-old monolinguals adhered more to the MEC than bilinguals did. Older bilinguals adhered less to the MEC than younger ones, while there was no difference in MEC adherence between the younger and older monolinguals. In the 5-year-olds, we additionally acquired neurophysiological data using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to allow for a first explorative look at potential neuronal underpinnings. The data show that, compared to bilinguals, monolinguals reveal higher activation over three brain regions (right frontal, left temporo-parietal, and left prefrontal) that may be involved in exploiting the MEC, building on conflict detection, inhibition, solution of a disjunction, and working memory processes. Taken together, our behavioral and neurophysiological findings reveal different paths towards novel property term learning depending on children’s language acquisition context. View Full-Text
Keywords: bilingual acquisition; monolingual acquisition; learning of property terms; adjectives; mutual exclusivity; whole object constraint; behavioral word learning task; fNIRS bilingual acquisition; monolingual acquisition; learning of property terms; adjectives; mutual exclusivity; whole object constraint; behavioral word learning task; fNIRS
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Groba, A.; De Houwer, A.; Obrig, H.; Rossi, S. Bilingual and Monolingual First Language Acquisition Experience Differentially Shapes Children’s Property Term Learning: Evidence from Behavioral and Neurophysiological Measures. Brain Sci. 2019, 9, 40.

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