Bilingualism and Cognitive Control: A State of the Art Review Essay

Bilingualism and Cognitive Control: A State of the Art Review Essay

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The bilingual cognitive advantage
Recent research has posited beneficial effects of bilingualism on linguistic cognitive abilities in two major areas: metalinguistic awareness and EF (Bialystok, et al., 2012). However, these major areas are not unitary systems; they include subcategories. This paper shed lights into them, while discussing cognitive control extensively in the next section.
Metalinguistic awareness
Metalinguistic awareness refers to ‘the ability to manipulate linguistic units and reflect upon structural properties of language’ (Kuo et al, 2011). Since it is not a unitary component (Bialystok, 2001), research always classifies it into subcomponents. The majority of research deals with specific aspects of linguistic structure. Thus, dividing metalinguistic awareness into four components: lexical, phonological, syntactic and semantic awareness (Chin & Wigglesworth, 2007).
Giving the fact that metalinguistic awareness is not a single unit; different aspects of metalinguistic awareness reveal different correlates. While research about lexical awareness supports monolingual superiority (Chin & Wigglesworth, 2007), phonological awareness studies show discrepancy (Adesope et.al, 2010). It follows that not all research findings support bilingual superiority in all metalinguistic aspects. Some, report disadvantage or no difference between monolinguals and bilinguals, despite the fact that null significance is rare because journals interested more in dramatic findings (Bialystok, 2001; Adesope et.al, 2010).
Executive functions
This umbrella term compromises ‘various complex cognitive processes and sub-processes (Elliott, 2003). It refers to ‘the set of abilities that allows an individual to select an action that is appr...


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...ya, J., & Bialystok, E. (2011). The effects of bilingualism on toddlers’ executive functioning. Journal of experimental child psychology, 108(3), 567-579.
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Simon, J. R. (1969). Reactions towards the source of stimulation. Journal of experimental Psychology, 81, 174-176 .
Stroop, J. R. (1935). Studies of interference in serial verbal reactions. Journal of Experimental Psychology,18:643-662.
Werker, J. F., & Byers-Heinlein, K. (2008). Bilingualism in infancy: First steps in perception and comprehension. Trends in cognitive sciences, 12(4), 144-151.
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