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Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01997

Bidialectalism and Bilingualism: Exploring the Role of Language Similarity as a Link between Linguistic Ability and Executive Control

  • 1Dynamik des gesunden Alterns, Universität Zürich, Switzerland
  • 2Cognitive Psychology Unit, Department of Psychology, Universität Zürich, Switzerland
  • 3Institute of Psychology, University of Sheffield, United Kingdom

The notion of bilingual advantages in executive functions (EF) is based on the assumption that the demands posed by cross-language interference serve as EF training. These training effects should be more pronounced the more cross-language interference bilinguals have to overcome when managing their two languages. In the present study, we investigated the proposed link between linguistic and EF performance using the similarity between the two languages spoken since childhood as a proxy for different levels of cross-language interference. We assessed the effect of linearly increasing language dissimilarity on linguistic and EF performance in multiple tasks in four groups of young adults (aged 18-33): German monolinguals (n = 24), bidialectals (n = 25; German and Swiss German dialect), bilinguals speaking two languages of the same Indo-European ancestry (n = 24; e.g., German-English), or bilinguals speaking two languages of different ancestry (n = 24; e.g., German-Turkish). Bayesian linear-mixed effects modeling revealed substantial evidence for a linear effect of language similarity on linguistic accuracy, with better performance for participants with more similar languages and monolinguals. However, we did not obtain evidence for the presence of a similarity effect on EF performance. Furthermore, language experience did not modulate EF performance, even when testing the effect of continuous indicators of bilingualism (e.g., age of acquisition, proficiency, daily foreign language usage). These findings question the theoretical assumption that life-long experience in managing cross-language interference serves as EF training.

Keywords: Bidialectalism, bilingualism, Language similarity, Linguistic processing, executive functions

Received: 25 Jun 2018; Accepted: 28 Sep 2018.

Edited by:

Peter Bright, Anglia Ruskin University, United Kingdom

Reviewed by:

Steve Majerus, Université de Liège, Belgium
Evelyne Mercure, University College London, United Kingdom  

Copyright: © 2018 Oschwald, Schättin, von Bastian and Souza. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Ms. Jessica Oschwald, Dynamik des gesunden Alterns, Universität Zürich, Zurich, Switzerland, jessica.oschwald@uzh.ch