Trajectories of verbal fluency and executive functions in multilingual and monolingual children and adults: A cross-sectional study

Filippi, Roberto, Ceccolini, Andrea and Bright, Peter (2022) Trajectories of verbal fluency and executive functions in multilingual and monolingual children and adults: A cross-sectional study. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 75 (1). pp. 130-147. ISSN 1747-0226

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The development of verbal fluency is associated with the maturation of executive function skills, such as the ability to inhibit irrelevant information, shift between tasks, and hold information in working memory. Some evidence suggests that multilinguistic upbringing may underpin disadvantages in verbal fluency and lexical retrieval, but can also afford executive function advantages beyond the language system including possible beneficial effects in older age. This study examined the relationship between verbal fluency and executive function in 324 individuals across the lifespan by assessing the developmental trajectories of English monolingual and multilingual children aged 7–15 years (N = 154) and adults from 18 to 80 years old (N = 170). The childhood data indicated patterns of improvement in verbal fluency and executive function skills as a function of age. Multilingual and monolingual children had comparable developmental trajectories in all linguistic and non-linguistic measures used in the study with the exception of planning, for which monolingual children showed a steeper improvement over the studied age range relative to multilingual children. For adults, monolinguals and multilingual participants had comparable performance on all measures with the exception of nonverbal inhibitory control and response times on the Tower of London task: monolinguals showed a steeper decline associated with age. Exploratory factor analysis indicated that verbal fluency was associated with working memory and fluid intelligence in monolingual participants but not in multilinguals. These findings raise the possibility that early acquisition of an additional language may impact on the development of the functional architecture serving high-level human cognition.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: Bilingualism, cognitive development, developmental trajectories, executive functions, multilingualism, verbal fluency
Faculty: Faculty of Science & Engineering
SWORD Depositor: Symplectic User
Depositing User: Symplectic User
Date Deposited: 19 Jul 2021 15:50
Last Modified: 07 Jun 2022 15:05

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