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Bilingual and monolingual children process pragmatic cues differently when learning novel adjectives

MPS-Authors
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Groba,  Agnes
Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;
Institute of Special and Inclusive Education, University of Leipzig, Germany;

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Mehnert,  Jan
Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;
Department of Systems Neuroscience, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Germany;

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Rossi,  Sonja
Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;
Department of Medical Psychology, Innsbruck Medical University, Austria;

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Obrig,  Hellmuth
Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;
Clinic for Cognitive Neurology, University of Leipzig, Germany;

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Groba_deHouwer_2017.pdf
(Publisher version), 586KB

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Citation

Groba, A., de Houwer, A., Mehnert, J., Rossi, S., & Obrig, H. (2018). Bilingual and monolingual children process pragmatic cues differently when learning novel adjectives. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 21(2), 384-402. doi:10.1017/S1366728917000232.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002D-9FE6-E
Abstract
Previous studies have shown bilingually and monolingually developing children to differ in their sensitivity to referential pragmatic deixis in challenging tasks, with bilinguals exhibiting a higher sensitivity. The learning of adjectives is particularly challenging, but has rarely been investigated in bilingual children. In the present study we presented a pragmatic cue supporting the learning of novel adjectives to 32 Spanish–German bilingual and 28 German monolingual 5-year-olds. The children’s responses to a descriptive hand gesture highlighting an object’s property were measured behaviorally using a forced choice task and neurophysiologically through functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS). While no group differences emerged on the behavioral level, fNIRS revealed a higher activation in bilingual than monolingual children in the vicinity of the posterior part of the right superior temporal sulcus (STS). This result supports the prominent role of the STS in processing pragmatic gestures and suggests heightened pragmatic sensitivity for bilingual children.