The Relationship Between Cognitive Flexibility, Bilingualism and Language Production: Evidence from Narrative Abilities in Senior Preschoolers from the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia)

Cover Page

Cite item

Abstract

Bilingualism remains one of the key agents of influence on cognitive and language development of a child. Recently, this phenomenon became the focus of research attention. On the one hand, it can be explained by the active migration processes occurring on a global level. On the other hand, the influence of bilingualism over children’s cognitive and language development is still quite a divisive issue. This study is aimed to explore, which phenomenon is more associ-ated with the language development, - the fact of a child’s bilingualism or his/her level of execu-tive functions development. 380 children from a bilingual Russian region participated in this re-search. The final sample consisted of 279 6-7-year-old subjects without deviations in their cogni-tive and language development. There were 181 monolingual children and 98 bilinguals. Age, gender and non-verbal intelligence were controlled. Average age equaled to 6.65 years (SD = 0.37). The study demonstrated that the differences revealed in the language development of mono- and bilingual children were related mostly to lexical and grammatical aspects and didn’t intervene with the macrostructure of the narrative. In regard to the influence of executive functions, the role of cognitive flexibility turned out to be an essential element from the perspective of the difference in mono- and bilingual children’s language development. As a whole, the study results allow drawing a conclusion that the development of cognitive flexibility contributes to a more efficient simultaneous mastering of two languages.

Full Text

Introduction

Both the topic of the mutual influence of executive functions (EF) and language development, and the effect of bilingualism on children’s speech and cognitive development, are of the utmost interest for contemporary psychology of education [1; 2]. The strongest results were obtained for the association of children’s working memory (especially the verbal one) and language development [3; 4]. Some less obvious out-come was delivered on the effect of other components of executive functions, such as inhibition control and cognitive flexibility [5; 6].

Researchers focus on looking for specific factors that have a positive impact on the development of executive functions and speech development. Many phenomena may serve as such factors, for example, the features of the development of the emotional sphere affect the development of speech [7], and certain features and types of children’s games are positively associated with the development of components of regulatory functions [8; 9].

At the same time, the question remains open as to whether there are any factors showing a negative impact on the development of self-regulation and speech in children. Even though bilingualism becomes a more and more influential factor for the entire system of preschool and junior school education [10], its effect on the language development within each mastered language remains a complex and yet, unsolved is-sue [11; 12]. For example, there is multiple data confirming the negative effect of bilingualism on vocabulary volume [11], but its relationship with other characteristics is still debatable [12]. Besides, it is important to keep in mind the diversity of bilingual-ism, in particular, when a child masters two languages belonging to different types and language families, for example, Russian and Yakut. Russian is a synthetic language where nouns, adjectives and verbs have three genders in the past tense [13]. Meanwhile, Yakut is an agglutinative language, and its grammar contains no category of gender whatsoever [14]. Therefore, due to these specifics, Russian-Yakut bilinguals often make mistakes in the agreement in gender when speaking Russian.

The Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) is a region of the Russian Federation where two languages, Russian and Yakut, coexist on the official level. Both communication and education is executed in two languages in a more or less equal proportion. Thus, in 32 kindergartens of the Republic there are both Russian-speaking and Yakut-speaking groups [15]. Capital residents have a slight preference for Russian, when in peripheral settlements (uluses) there are more monolinguals, speaking Yakut only. There are also kindergarten groups where children and adults prefer this or that language, along with totally bilingual groups, where everyone uses both languages.

The influence of bilingualism on executive functions

The influence of bilingualism on different EF was repeatedly studied by multiple researchers [16—18]. However, even our systematic review [18] demonstrated that this evidence is quite controversial, and more research is necessary in this area in order to clarify the conditions under which those effects show themselves. In general, there are both studies where bilinguals demonstrated better performance in cognitive flexibility and attention shifting [16], and where there was no difference at all [17]. We considered it important to include this aspect in our study, in order to ascertain the nature of this relationship.

Relationship of bilingualism and language development

The influence of bilingualism on language development was studied both in children with normal development, and the ones with different deviations [11; 12]. The outcome was also ambiguous. Generally speaking, one can claim that in children with developmental deviations, bilingualism often caused a negative effect on language development. We assume that the source of these ambiguous results lies in the extent of the difference of the languages mastered by the child, and with the aspect of language under study.

It has been proven that children narratives’ analysis is a very precise language assessment tool for bilinguals [19]. It is common to distinguish macro- and microstructure in narratives [20, 21]. The macrostructure includes general narrative parameters, narrative structure when the microstructure covers lexical, grammatical, and syntactic specifics of speech [21]. According to previous research of narratives in bilingual children [21—24], switching between languages will affect in the first hand the volume of a child’s vocabulary, as well as his/her grammar and syntax (in case those two vary a lot from language to language). At the same time, general ability to build narratives with a certain structure doesn’t depend on the presence of bilingualism, as it undergoes the same process independently from the language.

Relationship of language development and executive functions

The relationship of executive functions (EF) and language development often became of research interest, both in children with typical and atypical development and showed the strong relationships between these indicators [25—27]. Yet, it is important to point out that in the majority of such works mainly vocabulary and syntactical assessments were taken into consideration in order to estimate the language development [25; 27; 28]. Working memory as one of EF components showed the best connection with language development [26]. Furthermore, some evidence was obtained as well, regarding the association of the language development with cognitive flexibility and inhibitory control [5; 6] or with several components of EF [25; 27]. Besides, it was shown that verbal abilities had a significant effect on the development of regulatory functions in preschool children [29].

Previously, we studied the intercorrelation of EF and narratives using the narratives by monolingual children from other region of Russia [30, 31]. The analysis demonstrated, that in general, the level of proficiency of working memory was highly and stably correlated with the narrative macrostructure parameters; when verbal working memory was in particular connected with lexical and grammatical specifics of children’s language. In regard to cognitive flexibility, the results revealed that there was a strong correlation between it and macrostructure indicators of narrative production whereas there were much fewer microstructure indicators that have correlations with cognitive flexibility. The children who were able to complete the most difficult task of DCCS method (with borders), showed better results in narrative production [32]. It is also of importance, that above mentioned research did not include the effect of bilingualism, and this is why we consider it as a crucial variable in the current study.

Aims and Hypotheses

The goal of this study was to reveal the influence of both bilingualism and executive functions on the language development of 6—7-year-old children. The results of literature review and our previous research works allowed us making the following hypotheses:

1) Mono- and bilinguals demonstrate significant difference in the level of development of language and executive functions.

2) Advanced level of development of executive functions can counter-balance possible negative influence of bilingualism on the language development of preschool children. We expect cognitive flexibility to cause the highest compensating effect, comparing to the well-developed working memory (visual and audio-verbal) and inhibitory control.

Materials and Methods

Participants

Total sample for this study consisted of 380 participants. The data of 101 children was excluded from the analysis (see Data analysis for more details). The final sample size equaled to 279 6—7-year-old children with no cognitive or language development deviations (M = 6.65; SD = 0.37). There were 145 female and 134 male participants, all from the kindergartens of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia). All subjects were divided in two groups. The first was monolingual (n = 181), i.e. consisted of children who, ac-cording to the educators’ reports, spoke Russian only, and the educator spoke Russian to them as well. The second group was bilingual (n = 98); the children spoke Russian and Yakut, and the educator also addressed them in both languages.

Measures

Executive functions Assessment

Four subtests were used to assess different aspects of executive functions.

The subtest “Sentences Repetition” [33] aimed to assess verbal working memory. The child can receive from 0 to 34 points on it. The subtest “Memory for Designs” [33] aimed to assess visual working memory. There were four measurements available for children’s visual working memory: a content score, a spatial score, a bonus score, and a total score (sum of previous three scores), in accordance with the NEPSY-II battery description.

The subtest “Inhibition” [33] aimed to assess inhibitory control as a component of executive functions which is the children’s ability to inhibit automatized cognitive reactions. If there are no errors, the child receives two points for each five-second time interval; if there is one error, the child receives one point and 0 if there are two or more errors. The maximum number of points is 30.

The Dimensional Change Card Sort [34] is assessment of shifting or cognitive flexibility. DCCS implies children’s sorting cards by different rules. One point is awarded for each correct sorting (the maximum of points is 24). Later each subtest was processed in accordance with the technique instruction [30].

Afterwards, a total score was calculated for each subtest, and it reflected the general level of development of a particular component of self-regulation system. For example, for the working memory subtest there was a “Total” score and the “Content”, “Spatial”, and “Bonus” scores. For audio-verbal memory subtest there was just the “Total score”. Inhibitory control subtest had a total “Naming” score for all the tasks series with different stimuli, and a total “Inhibition” score, also for all the series. Physical inhibitory control subtest (“hot self-regulation”) had a “Total” score and different measures for the mistakes of all types: “Movements”, “Eye opening”, and “Sounds”. For the last subtest, the one for cognitive flexibility, there was also a “Total” score and the measures for each sorting stage “Shape”, “Form”, and “With shifting”.

Language development assessment

We used elicited narratives for the assessment of language development. This technique is considered the most ecological [20; 21], because it allows taking into account not only the lexical and grammatical indicators of the child’s language, but also his/her ability to compose structured coherent speech. However, despite all the advantages of this technique, the approaches to the collection, assessment, and the processing of narratives may still vary. In particular, the methods of the assessment of narratives, mostly applied in Russian psychology, include the following parameters: semantic completeness, semantic adequacy A and B [35], narrative type [36], and narrative structure [37]. In their aggregate, they represent the narrative macrostructure and lexico-grammatical parameters (lexical, grammatical and syntactical accuracy) that form the microstructure [31].

In the framework of the current study, we also distinguished complex parameters: 1) Narrative macrostructure that included semantic adequacy A and B, semantic completeness, narrative type, and narrative structure; and 2) Narrative microstructure (lexical, grammatical and syntactical accuracy).

In order to obtain more precise results, we used all types of elicited narratives: re-telling (“The jackdaw and the pigeons”), storytelling based on a single picture (“A broken cup”), and storytelling based on a series of pictures (“The cat and the dog”). All types of narratives were analyzed by the above listed parameters. All children were consequently presented with a picture, a series of pictures, and a story to be retold. All the narratives were recorded, and later these materials were written out by specially trained staff.

Strategy of Data Analysis

On the first stage, the initial sample of 380 6—7-year-old participants was reduced. We had to exclude the data of monolingual Yakut-speaking children (n = 101), as there was a possibility of misunderstanding the instructions, given that all the techniques were presented in Russian.

To confirm the first hypothesis, we used the method of comparison of averages for bi- and monolingual children by means of t-Student test and Mann–Whitney U test. The first test was used for cognitive flexibility “Total” score and “Shifting” score; for audio-verbal “Total” score, and some linguistic variables: semantic completeness, number of words, and macro- and microstructure (general). The second test was applied to the number of cognitive flexibility mistakes in “Color” and “Shape” category; inhibition (naming and inhibition), physical inhibitory control, visual working memory, and the rest of linguistic variables: semantic adequacy A and B, narrative type, narrative structure, and lexical, grammatical and syntactical accuracy.

We used HCA in order to verify the second hypothesis. It allowed finding the optimal number of clusters in the EF development. Then we applied k-means clustering to define the groups with different levels of development of 1) cognitive flexibility; 2) working memory (visual and audio-verbal), and 3) inhibition.

Results

Differences in the Development of EF and Oral Language in Bilingual and Monolingual Preschoolers

Our first assumption, that there was a significant difference in language development and executive functions of mono- and bilingual children, was verified through the comparison of averages (T-Student test and Mann—Whitney U test for independent samples). The following results were obtained for the relationship of self-regulation parameters. There were significant differences in audio-verbal memory of bi- and monolingual children, to the advantage of the latter (t = 5.046; p = 0.000). It meant that audio-verbal memory of bilingual respondents was less developed. In case of inhibitory control, the opposite significant differences were discovered, i.e., bilingual children had it on more advanced level (for the “Total” score, U = 6744.500; p = 0.024). The number of mistakes in that subtest also differed significantly: monolinguals made some sounds more often, even though the instruction to the task clearly prohibited it (U = 5576.500, p = 0.001). It can be explained with the fact that bilinguals have better skills of “hot” self-regulation. However, this conclusion is way too far-fetched, and clearly needs to be double-checked on a larger sample.

The next step was to analyze the differences between mono- and bilingual children in the level of their language development. Bilinguals demonstrated significantly lower score in all aspects of general narrative microstructure: lexical (U = 2354.0, p = 0.001), grammatical (U = 1738.5, p = 0.0001), and syntactical (U = 2190.5, p = 0.0001) accuracy. No significant difference was registered for narrative macrostructure. Thus, there were significant differences in bi- and monolingual children only with respect to lexical and grammatical accuracy of speech.

Language development in Bilinguals with High Level of Executive Functions

In our second hypothesis we assumed that bilinguals with advanced executive functions have the same level of language development as monolinguals.

Language development in Bilinguals with High Level of Cognitive Flexibility

We verified the second hypothesis regarding cognitive flexibility. For this, we de-fined the optimal number of clusters describing the values of cognitive flexibility, through hierarchic clustering. Two came out to be the best number. Next, we divided the whole sample in two groups by means of k-means clustering (medium and high level of development of cognitive flexibility, correspondingly). Significant difference between these two groups existed only for the following two parameters (T-Student test): “Total” score for cognitive flexibility (Total score Sorting: t = −14.781; p = 0.000) and shifting from one sorting rule to another (Sorting with Shifting: t = −13.603; p = 0.000). The difference between the high and medium CF for color and shape sorting were not significant (the Mann-Whitney test: U = 1914.0; p = 0.595 and U = 1780.0; p = .166).

Only monolingual (n = 84) and bilingual (n = 29) children with high level of cognitive flexibility development participated in the next stage of analysis. We performed the comparison of averages for linguistic variables with T-Student test and Mann—Whitney U test for independent samples. Obtained results can be found in Table 1.

Table 1 / Таблица 1
Comparison of Averages across monolinguals and bilinguals with High CF Level by linguistic variables /
Сравнение средних показателей монолингвов и билингвов с высоким уровнем CF по лингвистическим переменным

Linguistic Variables

Criterion

p-value

M

SD

Monolingual

Bilingual with High CF

Monolingual

Bilingual with High CF

semantic completeness

T = ,226

,822

34.95

35.71

12.148

13.745

semantic adequacy A

U = 423.5

,580

1.80

2.14

1.391

1.740

semantic adequacy B

U = 417.0

,517

2.66

2.57

1.346

1.630

number of words

T = 1.016

,314

55.52

60.52

23.261

19.992

narrative structure

U = 458.0

,954

1.25

1.24

,892

1.091

narrative type

U = 449.0

,847

2.02

2.00

1.210

1.304

macrostructure (general)

T = .224

,824

42.68

43.67

15.642

18.502

grammatical accuracy

T = −1.920

,059

7.20

6.14

2.041

2.175

syntactical accuracy

T = −1.310

,195

7.20

6.38

2.445

2.202

lexical accuracy

T = −1.519

,134

6.73

5.90

2.150

1.786

microstructure (general)

T = −1.673

,099

21.14

18.43

6.345

5.546

Note: only significant differences are noted.

The data, presented in Table 1 demonstrates that our second hypothesis regarding cognitive flexibility was confirmed. There was no significant difference between bilinguals and monolinguals with high CF Level for any of linguistic variables. If we take a closer look at the obtained scores, we can make yet another conclusion. Bilinguals with high CF level the general macrostructure was developed even better than the one of monolinguals with medium CF level. One could observe the same pattern in particular, in semantic completeness, semantic adequacy A, and number of words. In relation to other variables, monolinguals did not differ from bilinguals with high CF level but demonstrated a slightly better score. This data also confirms that the general macrostructure and the variables it contains, such as grammatical, syntactical and lexical accuracy didn’t differ significantly in bilinguals and monolinguals with high CF level, even despite the latter had them better developed.

Language development in Bilinguals with High Level of Visual Working Memory

We also checked the second hypothesis regarding visual working memory. For this, we defined the optimal number of clusters describing the values of this EF component, through hierarchic clustering. Two came out to be the best number. Next, we divided the whole sample in two groups by means of k-means clustering (medium and high level of development of visual working memory, correspondingly). Mann–Whitney U test revealed significant difference between medium and high level of development of this parameter under all criteria except “Spatial” visual working memory.

On the next stage we selected all monolinguals that performed this task (n = 90) and all bilinguals with high VWM level (n = 44). We performed the comparison of averages for linguistic variables with T-Student test and Mann–Whitney U test for independent samples. Obtained results can be found in Table 2.

Table 2 / Таблица 2
Comparison of Averages across monolinguals and bilinguals with High VWM Level by linguistic variables /
Сравнение средних показателей монолингвов и билингвов с высоким уровнем зрительной рабочей памяти (ЗРП) по языковым показателям

Linguistic Variables

Criterion

p-value

M

SD

Monolingual

Bilingual with High VWM

Monolingual

Bilingual with High VWM

semantic completeness

T = ,701

,486

34.83

37.03

10.71

17.03

semantic adequacy A

T = ,685

,495

1.90

2.14

1.31

1.77

semantic adequacy B

U = 612.0

,301

2.59

3.07

1.46

2.05

number of words

T = ,152

,879

57.43

58.34

23.89

28.54

narrative structure

U = 686.5

,797

1.94

1.86

1.07

1.27

narrative type

U = 620.0

,329

1.14

1.41

0.89

1.18

Macrostructure (general)

T = ,753

,454

42.41

45.52

13.98

22.52

grammatical accuracy

U = 464.0

,010

7.10

5.86

1.65

2.23

syntactical accuracy

T = −2.341

,022

7.10

5.90

2.15

2.27

lexical accuracy

T = −1.464

,147

6.55

5.90

1.74

2.16

Microstructure (general)

T = −2.374

,020

20.76

17.66

5.13

6.27

Note: no significant differences are marked in bold.

In reliance upon Table 2, one can state that our second hypothesis regarding visual working memory was only partially confirmed. Bilinguals with high VWM level didn’t differ significantly from monolinguals by almost all the variables, except general microstructure, especially grammatical and syntactical accuracy. Based on the averages, one can draw a conclusion that such bilingual children have a better developed general macrostructure, than average monolinguals. It holds true for all the variables composing macrostructure as well, except narrative structure. When to microstructure (in particular, grammatical, and syntactic accuracy), bilinguals with high VWM level performed worse than monolinguals. The groups didn’t really differ in lexical accuracy, but monolinguals demonstrated a tendency to higher score.

Language development in Bilinguals with High Level of Verbal Working Memory

We verified the second hypothesis regarding audio-verbal working memory. The hierarchic cluster analysis demonstrated that the optimal number of clusters equaled to two, like in previous cases. Then, we divided the sample in two groups by means of k-means clustering (medium and high level of development of audio-verbal working memory, correspondingly). T-Student test revealed significant difference between medium and high level of development of this parameter.

Further we selected all monolinguals that completed this task (n = 168) and all bilinguals with high level of development of this type of working memory (n = 53). The comparison of averages by linguistic variables was performed then, via T-Student test and Mann–Whitney U test for independent samples. Obtained results can be found in Table 3.

Table 3 / Таблица 3
Comparison of Averages across monolinguals and bilinguals with High AVbWM Level by linguistic variables /
Сравнение средних показателей монолингвов и билингвов с высоким уровнем слухо-речевой рабочей памяти (СРРП) по языковым показателям

Linguistic Variables

Criterion

p-value

M

SD

Monolingual

Bilingual with High AVbWM

Monolingual

Bilingual with High AVbWM

semantic completeness

T = 1.535

,127

38.02

41.63

14.07

14.07

semantic adequacy A

U = 1890.5

,783

2.25

2.37

1.52

1.65

semantic adequacy B

U = 1638.0

,136

3.03

3.51

1.65

1.65

number of words

T = ,553

,581

62.40

64.90

24.74

22.92

narrative structure

U = 1755.0

,345

2.14

2.34

1.06

1.24

narrative type

U = 1542.5

,045

1.35

1.71

0.97

1.03

Macrostructure (general)

T = 1.528

,129

46.79

51.56

15.84

18.60

grammatical accuracy

U = 1207.0

,000

7.47

6.27

1.84

1.75

syntactical accuracy

U = 1401.5

,009

7.66

6.66

2.26

1.92

lexical accuracy

T = −1.718

,088

6.87

6.29

1.88

1.65

Microstructure (general)

T = −2.785

,006

22.01

19.22

5.57

4.83

Note: no significant differences are marked in bold.

Table 3 demonstrates that the second hypothesis regarding audio-verbal working memory was confirmed partially. Bilinguals with high AVbWM level didn’t differ that much from monolinguals by the majority of variables, except narrative type and general microstructure (in particular, grammatical and syntactical accuracy). Basing on the averages, we can see that those bilinguals possess a better developed macrostructure, than average monolinguals. In respect to the microstructure measures (including grammatical and syntactic accuracy), bilinguals with AVbWM level were less efficient than monolinguals. There was no significant difference between the groups, but monolinguals had higher scores.

Language development in Bilinguals with High Level of Inhibitory Control

Finally, we verified the second hypothesis about inhibitory control. Again, the optimal number of clusters was two, according to our hierarchic cluster analysis. Then, we divided the sample in two groups by means of k-means clustering (medium and high level of development of inhibitory control, correspondingly). Mann–Whitney U test revealed significant difference between medium and high level of development of this parameter.

Then, we selected all monolinguals (n = 154) and all bilinguals with high IC level (n = 50). Afterwards, we performed the comparison of averages by linguistic variables via T-Student test and Mann—Whitney U test for independent samples. Obtained results can be found in Table 4.

Table 4 / Таблица 4
Comparison of Averages across monolinguals and bilinguals with High IC Level by linguistic variables /
Сравнение средних показателей монолингвов и билингвов с высоким уровнем сдерживающего контроля (СК) по языковым показателям

Linguistic Variables

Criterion

p-value

M

SD

Monolingual

Bilingual with High IC

Monolingual

Bilingual with High IC

semantic completeness

T = −,034

,973

38.33

38.25

11.71

13.88

semantic adequacy A

U = 1467.5

,401

2.31

2.06

1.50

1.55

semantic adequacy B

U = 1544.5

,678

3.08

2.94

1.62

1.69

number of words

T = −,774

,440

62.42

58.67

23.85

26.41

narrative structure

U = 1515.5

,558

2.17

2.06

1.05

1.22

narrative type

U = 1554.0

,707

1.37

1.31

0.95

1.01

Macrostructure (general)

T = −,200

,842

47.26

46.61

15.53

18.17

grammatical accuracy

U = 803.5

,000

7.52

5.86

1.85

1.69

syntactical accuracy

U = 1048.5

,002

7.76

6.36

2.26

2.09

lexical accuracy

T = −2.372

,019

6.90

6.03

1.90

1.78

Microstructure (general)

T = −3.661

,000

22.18

18.25

5.62

4.95

Note: no significant differences are marked in bold.

From Table 4, we can see that the second hypothesis regarding inhibitory control was partially confirmed. Bilinguals with high IC level didn’t differ significantly from monolinguals by all variables associated with the narrative macrostructure. Basing on the averages, we can draw a conclusion that monolinguals demonstrate a much more advanced narrative microstructure and higher score for macrostructure at a trend level.

Discussion

This study revealed that for the 6—7-year-old preschool children, residents of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), bilingualism was an important developmental factor both for executive functions and their language. The ambiguousness of the influence of this factor, previously outlined in various research works [38] was confirmed by this study as well. In general, Yakut-Russian bilinguals performed the speech-oriented tasks worse than Russian-speaking monolinguals. In particular, it was especially noticeable in their grammatical and syntactic scores. Most probably, it can be related to the effect of the interference of languages, because this phenomenon was much less present in the accuracy of vocabulary use. Moreover, when it comes to narrative macrostructure, there were no significant difference between monolinguals and bilinguals at all. Therefore, a preliminary conclusion may be drawn that microstructure of a child’s narratives does depend on his/her mono- or bilingualism, while building of a coherent narrative rather depends on the level of development of cognitive functions. However, this assumption needs additional investigation because it is difficult to distinguish between effects. This is the effects of bilingualism itself or the effects of the socio-economic characteristics of the region of residence, which can affect cognitive functioning [39].

In respect to executive functions, there is also an uncertainty in their performance. Working memory score of bilinguals was lower than of monolinguals, but their inhibitory control was better, while in cognitive flexibility measures there was no significant difference at all. Yet, it’s important to note that in the latter case the bilinguals’ results were better than at a trend level. This outcome might be explained with the fact that verbal working memory tasks are based on the repeating of sentences, hence are indirectly related to language development and to worse understanding of instructions by bilinguals. Although their higher level of inhibitory control coincides with the conclusions made in other research works dedicated to the same phenomenon [6, 7]. Apparently, the case is that bilingual children have more experience in shifting between languages and inhibition of words usage from a certain language when communicating in another one.

Despite negative influence of bilingualism on language development discovered in this study, it can be reduced if more attention is paid to the development of children’s executive functions. In particular, the obtained results demonstrate that bilinguals with high cognitive flexibility level didn’t really differ from Russian-speaking monolinguals in language development. This may be due to the fact that well-developed executive functions allow children quick and efficient shifting from one language to another, and counter-balance the effect of interference between languages (since Russian and Yakut grammatical system are quite distinct, children with low CF level are influenced by that interference to a great extent).

In fact, cognitive flexibility turned out to be the only component of executive functions that caused the highest effect on bilinguals’ language development. Other components, such as working memory and inhibitory control, didn’t affect language development that much; other bilinguals with high level of development of these parameters demonstrated significantly worse results in language development, than monolinguals. Thus, well-developed cognitive flexibility can be considered an advantage that can contribute to the mitigation of potential under achievements in bilingual’s language development if compared to monolinguals. This met our expectations completely.

Conclusions

Thus, the analysis of the influence of bilingualism on the development of narratives in 6—7-year-old preschool children in dependence to the level of development of their executive functions revealed the following:

  1. Yakut-Russian bilinguals of senior preschool age demonstrated lower level of development of such EF component as working memory, than monolinguals, but better inhibitory control.
  2. Monolinguals obtained better results in lexical and grammatical aspects of language development, while no significant difference was registered between bi- and monolingual children in respect to the ability to compose coherent narratives.
  3. Among executive functions, it is the cognitive flexibility that plays the crucial role, because bilinguals with well-developed CF not only didn’t demonstrate lower results, but in some measures, were more successful than monolingual children.
  4. Other executive functions, such as working memory and inhibitory control, cause less effect on language development.
  5. To counter-balance negative influence of bilingualism on language develop-ment, it is important to pay more attention to executive functions development and prioritize cognitive flexibility in this context.
×

About the authors

Ekaterina S. Oshchepkova

Lomonosov Moscow State University; Institute of Linguistics, Russian Academy of Sciences

Author for correspondence.
Email: oshchepkova_es@iling-ran.ru
SPIN-code: 7680-8527
PhD in Philology, Researcher, Department of Psychology of Education and Pedagogics, Faculty of Psychology 11, bld. 9, Mokhovaya str., Moscow, Russian Federation, 125009; 1 bld. 1 Bolshoy Kislovsky Lane, Moscow, Russian Federation, 125009

Arina N. Shatskaya

Lomonosov Moscow State University; Psychological Institute, Russian Academy of Education

Email: arina.shatskaya@mail.ru
Laboratory Assistant for Childhood Psychology and Digital Socialization 11, bld. 9, Mokhovaya str., Moscow, Russian Federation, 125009; 9, bld. 4, Mokhovaya str., Moscow, Russian Federation, 125009

Marfa I. Dedyukina

Preschool Education Department, Ammosov North-Eastern Federal University

Email: arina.shatskaya@mail.ru
SPIN-code: 9809-2174
Candidate of Pedagogical Sciences, Associate Professor, Deputy Head of the Department of Preschool Education for Academic Affairs 58, Belinskogo str., Yakutsk, Yakutia, Russian Federation, 677000

Vera A. Yakupova

Lomonosov Moscow State University

Email: vera.a.romanova@gmail.com
SPIN-code: 3608-2625
Candidate of Psychological Sciences, Researcher, Department of Methodology of Psychology, Faculty of Psychology 11, bld. 9, Mokhovaya str., Moscow, Russian Federation, 125009

Maria S. Kovyazina

Lomonosov Moscow State University

Email: KMS130766@mail.ru
SPIN-code: 1570-8446
Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Education, Doctor of Psychology, Professor of the Department of Neuro- and Pathopsychology of the Faculty of Psychology 11, bld. 9, Mokhovaya str., Moscow, Russian Federation, 125009

References

  1. Gooch, D., Thompson, P., Nash, H.M., Snowling, M.J. & Hulme, C. (2016). The Development of Executive Function and Language Skills in the Early School Years. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 57(2), 180-187. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcpp.12458
  2. Pazeto, T.C.B., Seabra, A.G. & Dias, N.M. (2014). Executive Functions, Oral Language and Writing in Preschool Children: De-velopment and Correlations1. Paidéia (Ribeirão Preto), 24, 213-222. https://doi.org/10.1590/1982-43272458201409
  3. Adams, A.-M. & Gathercole, S.E. (2000). Limitations in Working Memory: Implications for Language Development. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 35(1), 95-116. https://doi.org/10.1080/136828200247278
  4. Duinmeijer, I., de Jong, J. & Scheper, A. (2012). Narrative Abilities, Memory and Attention in Children with a Specific Language Impairment. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 47(5), 542-555. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1460-6984.2012.00164.x
  5. Pike, M., Swank, P., Taylor, H., Landry, S. & Barnes, M.A. (2013). Effect of Preschool Working Memory, Language, and Narrative Abilities on Inferential Comprehension at School-Age in Children with Spina Bifida Myelomeningocele and Typically Developing Children. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 19(4), 390-399. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1355617712001579
  6. Deak, G.O. (2004). The Development of Cognitive Flexibility and Language Abilities. Advances in Child Development and Behavior, 31, 271-327. URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0065-2407(03)31007-9 (accessed: 10.02.2021). https://doi.org/10.1016/S0065-2407(03)31007-9
  7. Oshchepkova, E., Kartushina, N. & Bukhalenkova, D. (2021). The relationship between language and emotional development in preschoolers: theoretical review. Moscow University Psychology Bulletin, 3, 260-287. (In Russ.). https://doi.org/10.11621/vsp.2021.03.13
  8. Bukhalenkova, D., Gavrilova, M., Airapetyan, Z., Semenov, Y. & Tarasova, K. (2020). Relation between play preferences at home and self-regulation in preschool children. National Psychological Journal, 13(2), 99-108. (In Russ.). https://doi.org/10.11621/npj.2020.0209
  9. Gindi, S. & Pilpel, A. (2020). Pièce Touchée!: The Relationship Between Chess Playing Experience and Inhibition. Psychology in Russia: State of the Art, 13(1), 133-146. https://doi.org/10.11621/pir.2020.0111
  10. Wu, C.-Y., O’Brien, B.A., Styles, S.J. & Chen, S.-H. A. (2020). The Impact of Bilingualism on Skills Development and Education. In Transforming Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. Springer. pp 47-69. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-15-4980-9_3
  11. Serratrice, L. (2012). The bilingual child. The handbook of bilingualism and multilingualism, 2, 87-108. https://doi.org/10.1590/S0102-44502013000200009
  12. Lund, E.M., Kohlmeier, T.L. & Durán, L.K. (2017). Comparative Language Development in Bilingual and Monolingual Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Systematic Review. Journal of Early Intervention, 39(2), 106-124. https://doi.org/10.1177/1053815117690871
  13. Shvedova, N.Y. (1980). The Russian Grammar: In 2 Vols. Moscow: The USSR Academy of Sciences, Russian Language Institute, Nauka. (In Russ.).
  14. Ubrjatova, E.I. (1990). Yakut language. Linguistic Encyclopedic Dictionary, V.N. Yartceva (ed.). Moscow, Sovetskaya Encyclopedia Publ. p. 685. (In Russ.).
  15. Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia). URL: https://minobrnauki.sakha.gov.ru/doshkolnoe-obrazovanie (accessed: 10.02.2021). (In Russ.).
  16. Benaissa, A. & Boudouh, M. (2020). Bilingualism and Executive Functions: Study of Working Memory, Selective Attention, Cognitive Flexibility, Planning in Monolingual and Bilingual Children. Dirasat Nafsiyat Wa Tarbawiyat, 13(4), 350-361.
  17. Haft, S.L., Kepinska, O., Caballero, J.N., Carreiras, M. & Hoeft, F. (2019). Attentional Fluctuations, Cognitive Flexibility, and Bilin-gualism in Kindergarteners. Behavioral Sciences, 9(5), 58. https://doi.org/10.3390/bs9050058
  18. Giovannoli, J., Martella, D., Federico, F., Pirchio, S. & Casagrande, M. (2020). The Impact of Bilingualism on Executive Functions in Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review Based on the PRISMA Method. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 2398. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.574789
  19. Paradis, J., Genesee, F. & Crago, M.B. (2011). Dual Language Development and Disorders. A handbook on bilingualism and second language learning, 2.
  20. Gagarina, N., Klop, D., Kunnari, S., Tantele, K., Välimaa, T., Bohnacker, U. & Walters, J. (2019). MAIN: Multilingual Assessment Instrument for Narratives-Revised. ZAS Papers in Linguistics, 63, 20. https://doi.org/10.21248/zaspil.63.2019.516
  21. Altman, C., Armon-Lotem, S., Fichman, S. & Walters, J. (2016). Macrostructure, Microstructure, and Mental State Terms in the Nar-ratives of English-Hebrew Bilingual Preschool Children with and without Specific Language Impairment. Applied Psycho-linguistics, 37(1), 165-193. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0142716415000466
  22. Cleave, P.L., Girolametto, L.E., Chen, X. & Johnson, C.J. (2010). Narrative Abilities in Monolingual and Dual Language Learning Children with Specific Language Impairment. Journal of communication disorders, 43(6), 511-522. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcomdis.2010.05.005
  23. Boerma, T., Leseman, P., Timmermeister, M., Wijnen, F. & Blom, E. (2016). Narrative abilities of monolingual and bilingual children with and without language impairment: Implications for clinical practice. International journal of language & communication disorders, 51(6), 626-638. https://doi.org/10.1111/1460-6984.12234
  24. Verhoeven, L. & Strömqvist, S. (2001). Narrative Development in a Multilingual Context. John Benjamins Publishing. Vol. 23.
  25. Snowling, M., Gooch, D.G., Nash, H.M., Hulme, C. & Thompson, P. (2016). The Development of Executive Function and Language Skills in the Early School Years. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 57(2), 180-187. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcpp.12458
  26. Fisher, E.L., Barton-Hulsey, A., Walters C., Sevcik, R.A. & Morris, R. (2019). Executive Functioning and Narrative Language in Children with Dyslexia. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 28(3), 1127-1138. https://doi.org/10.1044/2019_AJSLP-18-0106
  27. Slot, P.L. & von Suchodoletz, A. (2018). Bidirectionality in Preschool Children’s Executive Functions and Language Skills: Is One Developing Skill the Better Predictor of the Other? Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 42, 205-214. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2017.10.005
  28. White, L.J., Alexander, A. & Greenfield, D.B. (2017). The Relationship between Executive Functioning and Language: Examining Vocabulary, Syntax, and Language Learning in Preschoolers Attending Head Start. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 164, 16-31. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jecp.2017.06.010
  29. Fuhs, M.W. & Day, J.D. (2011). Verbal Ability and Executive Functioning Development in Preschoolers at Head Start. Developmental Psychology, 47(2), 404. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0021065
  30. Veraksa, A.N., Ochepkova, E.S., Bukhalenkova, D.A. & Kartushina, N.A. (2019). The Relationship of Executive Functions and Speech Production in Senior Preschool Children: Working Memory and Storytelling. Clinical Psychology and Special Education, 8(3), 56-84. (In Russ.). https://doi.org/10.17759/psyclin.2019080304
  31. Veraksa, A., Bukhalenkova, D., Kartushina, N. & Oshchepkova, E. (2020). The Relationship between Executive Functions and Lan-guage Production in 5-6-Year-Old Children: Insights from Working Memory and Storytelling. Behavioral Sciences, 10(2), 52. https://doi.org/10.3390/bs10020052
  32. Oshchepkova, E., Bukhalenkova, D. & Veraksa, A. (2021). The Relation Between Cognitive Flexibility and Language Production in Preschool Children. In: Advances in Cognitive Research, Artificial Intelligence and Neuroinformatics, Velichkovsky, B.M., Balaban, P.M., Ushakov, V.L. (Eds.). Cham: Springer International Publ. pp. 44-55. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-71637-0_5
  33. Korkman, M., Kirk, U. & Kemp, S.L. (2007). NEPSY II. Administrative Manual; Psychological Corporation. San Antonio. https://doi.org/10.1177/0734282909346716
  34. Zelazo, P.D. (2006). The Dimensional Change Card Sort (DCCS): A Method of Assessing Executive Function in Children. Nature Protocols, 1(1), 297-301. https://doi.org/10.1038/nprot.2006.46
  35. Akhutina, T.V. et al. (2018). Methods of Neuropsychological examination of 6-8 years old children. Moscow. (In Russ.).
  36. Ovchinnikova, I. (2005). Variety of children’s narratives as the reflection of individual differences in mental development. Psychology of Language and Communication, 9(1), 29-53.
  37. Kornev, A.N. & Balčiūnienė, I. (2017). Fictional Narrative as a Window to Discourse Development: A Psycholinguistic Approach. Events and narratives in language, Janusz Badio (ed.). Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, Vytauto Didžiojo universitetas. https://doi.org/10.3726/b 10924
  38. Bhatia, T.K. & Ritchie, W.C. (eds.). (2014). The handbook of bilingualism and multilingualism. John Wiley & Sons. https://doi.org/10.1111/weng.12076
  39. Verbitskaya, L., Zinchenko, Y., Malykh, S., Gaidamashko, I., Kalmyk, O. & Tikhomirova, T. (2020). Cognitive Predictors of Success in Learning Russian Among Native Speakers of High School Age in Different Educational Systems. Psychology in Russia: State of the Art, 13, 2-15. https://doi.org/10.11621/pir.2020.0201

Copyright (c) 2022 Oshchepkova E.S., Shatskaya A.N., Dedyukina M.I., Yakupova V.A., Kovyazina M.S.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

This website uses cookies

You consent to our cookies if you continue to use our website.

About Cookies