Literature and Linguistics

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The Relationship Between Degree of Bilingualism and Cognitive Ability: A Critical Discussion and Some New Longitudinal Data

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HAKUTA AND DIAZ

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Kenji Hakuta Yale University
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Rafael M. Diaz
University of N e w Mexlco

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ate bilingual saniples to a n extent such that the prototype of subsequent studies o n bilingualism became group comparisons of balanced bilinguals 10 monolingual counterparts matched o n appropriate variables. Second, the results served to allay cornnionly held fears concerning the products of bilingual education. namely, that it would produce retarded. poorly educated, anomie individuals without affiliation to either ethnolinguistic group and incapable of functioning in either language (Tucker & d’Anglejan, 1971). Bilingual education would not create, the study assured, a social or cognitive Frankenstein. In this chapter, we provide a brief review of research prior to Peal a n d Lambert’s study and more recent studies o n bilingualism and intelligence (for a n earlier review with a linguistic focus, see Lindholm, 1980; for a n expanded and detailed review of the first 6 decades of research, see Diaz, 1983). In the course o f t h e review. we point out both theoretical and methodologica~ weaknesses inherent in the typical bilingual-monolingual comparison. In addition, we stress the paucity o f longitudinal investigations that allow for the assessment of statements concerning the cause-effect relations between bilingualism and cognitive abilities. Then, we report preliminary results from our own study. which attempts to correct for these weaknesses. We conclude with some theoretical speculations regarding the nature of the relationship between bilingualism and thought.

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In 1962, Elizabeth Peal and Wallace Lambert of McGill University published a monograph entitled “The Relation of Bilingualism to Intelligence.”The research, conducted in Montreal with 10-year-old children, compared the performance of monolinguals t o that of bilingual, French/English-speaking subjects on a variety of standard tests of intelligence. In contrast to previous research on bilingualism and intelligence, Peal and Lambert (1962) discovered that their bilingual sample showed superior performance o n measures of verbal intelligence and o n nonverbal tests “involving concept-formation o r symbolic flexibility Ip. 141.” What differentiated the study from its ancestral relatives was the care with which Peal and Lambert exercised control over sample selection. They drew a distinction between true, “balanced bilinguals” who are proficient in both their first (11) and second language (L2) and “pseudo-bilinguals” who, for various reasons, have not yet attained ageappropriate abilities in their second language. According to Peal and Lambert(l962): “The pseudo-bilingual knows one language much better than the other, and does not use his second language in communication. T h e true (or balanced) bilingual masters both at a n early age and has facility with both as means of communication [p. 61.” Into their sample of bilinguals, only those considered “balanced” were admitted. Peal and Lambert’s study had substantial impact on two fronts. First, it raised the consciousness of researchers on the problem of selecting appropri-

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THE FIRST 4 DECADES OF RESEARCH
Psychological studies of the relation between bilingualism and cognitive abilities began in the early 1920s out of concern raised by the flourishing of psychometric tests o f intelligence. The concern was that bilingual children would suffer from some linguistic disadvantages, which could, in turn, prevent [air assessment o f their intellectual abilities and potential. The fact that the measurement of intelligence is heavily dependent on verbal abilities made psycholog,ists and educators deeply concerned (and rightfully so!) about...
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