Bilingual Infants Show Deeper Understanding of Others’ Language Ability As an adult, you know that humans are capable of speaking more than one language. But do infants have this same knowledge? The answer could depend on each infant’s lingual abilities. A study published in the journal Cognition has found that monolingual infants may expect others to understand only one ... Research in Brief
Free
Research in Brief  |   March 01, 2015
Bilingual Infants Show Deeper Understanding of Others’ Language Ability
Author Notes
Article Information
Development / Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Research in Brief
Research in Brief   |   March 01, 2015
Bilingual Infants Show Deeper Understanding of Others’ Language Ability
The ASHA Leader, March 2015, Vol. 20, 16. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB4.20032015.16
The ASHA Leader, March 2015, Vol. 20, 16. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB4.20032015.16
As an adult, you know that humans are capable of speaking more than one language. But do infants have this same knowledge?
The answer could depend on each infant’s lingual abilities. A study published in the journal Cognition has found that monolingual infants may expect others to understand only one language, while bilingual infants may not assume the same.
Co-authors Casey E. Pittsa and Athena Vouloumanos, of New York University, and Kristine H. Onishib, of McGill University, studied the responses of monolingual and bilingual 20-month-olds observing a series of scenarios involving unfamiliar adults. The researchers used the length of the infants’ gaze—a metric known as “looking time”—to determine their experience. Longer visual engagement, according to past research, means the infants have seen something they did not expect.
Two adult speakers, using either the same language (English or Spanish) or two different languages (English and either French or Spanish), gave the location of a ball hidden inside cups to an adult listener, as the infants (who had seen where the ball was placed) watched. With instructions in the first language, the adult participant found the ball each time. But in one version, the adult found the ball again after the second speaker relayed the location, while in the second version the adult did not correctly search for the ball.
Both the monolingual and bilingual infants looked longer when the adult searcher was unable to find the ball the second time, even though instructions were given in the same language. But only the monolingual infants looked longer when the information was given in two different languages, and the searcher found the ball correctly the second time.
According to the researchers, the results show that infants depend on their personal language experience when evaluating the abilities of unfamiliar people, which could mean that monolingual infants expect an unfamiliar person to understand only one language, even if that language is not their own.

According to the researchers, the results show that infants depend on their personal language experience when evaluating the abilities of unfamiliar people, which could mean that monolingual infants expect an unfamiliar person to understand only one language, even if that language is not their own.

“The monolingual infants assumed that an unfamiliar person would understand only one language while bilingual infants did not,” explains Vouloumanos, “suggesting that bilingual infants do not expect all speech to convey information to all people.”
0 Comments
Submit a Comment
Submit A Comment
Name
Comment Title
Comment


This feature is available to Subscribers Only
Sign In or Create an Account ×
FROM THIS ISSUE
March 2015
Volume 20, Issue 3