Schiffman, Fall 2002

Bilingualism and Intelligence

  1. Some Bibliography: Books

    1. Bilingualism Database at Birmingham University.

    2. Afendras and Pianarosa, Child Bilingualism and Second Language Learning: a Descriptive Bibliography, Laval 1975.

    3. Baker, Colin and Sylvia Prys Jones, (eds.) Encyclopedia of bilingualism and bilingual education Clevedon ; Philadelphia, PA : Multilingual Matters, 1998. (LC3707 .E53 1998)

    4. Bialystok, Ellen Bilingualism in Development: Language, Literacy & Cognition. Cambridge: CUP, 2001. (P115.2 .B5 2001)

    5. Hamers, Josiane and Michel H. A. Blanc, Bilinguality and Bilingualism. Cambridge, 1990.

    6. Haugen, Einar. Bilingualism in the Americas: A Bibliography and Research Guide. U. of Alabama Press, 1956.

    7. Haugen, Einar. Bilingualism, Language Contact, and Immigrant Languages in the United States: A Research Report, 1956-1970. In Current Trends in Linguistics, Vol. X, T. Sebeok (ed.), 1972. (Carries on from Haugen's 1956 publication; useful discussion and overview also.)

    8. Iams, Thomas M., ``Assessing the Scholastic Achievement and Cognitive Development of Bilingual and Monolingual Children." In Simões 1976.

    9. Lambert, W. E. and G. R. Tucker, Bilingual Education of Children: The St. Lambert Experiment. Newbury House, 1972.

    10. Mackey, William. International Bibliography on Bilingualism. Laval, 1972.

    11. Romaine, S. Bilingualism. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989. P115 R58.1989

    12. Wei, Li (ed.) The Bilingualism reader London ; New York : Routledge, 2000. ISBN: 0415213355 paper (On R R for another course) P115 .B553 2000

    13. Weinreich, Uriel. Languages in Contact. 1953.

      More Bibliography

  2. Problem of defining Bilingualism (Bilinguality).

    1. Social or societal?
    2. or community feature vs. individual repertoire? Lay definitions tend to confuse bilingualism of the state/polity, bilingual schooling (however defined), and individual bilingualism.
    3. Hamers and Blanc define bilinguality as
      ``the psychological state of an individual who has access to more than one linguistic code as a means of social communication" whereas bilingualism ``includes that of bilinguality (individual bilingualism) but refers equally to the state of a linguistic community in which two languages are in contact with the result that two codes can be used in the same interaction and that a number of individuals are bilingual" that is, bilingualism is societal.

    Not all researchers have used this terminology to reflect this distinction, though all make the distinction.

    1. Bloomfield: `native-like' competence in two lgs.
    2. Others: bilingualism `par excellence' or `virtuoso' bilingualism or `balanced' bilingualism?
    3. Home-School Bilingualism ?
    4. Haugen: any minimal qualifiction in 2 lgs.
    5. Others: what skills are we dealing with: spoken? written? how many stylistic ranges/registers?
    6. Concept of `dominance:

      • age and order of acquisition of lgs.
      • usefulness/utility of given lg, and opportunity for communication (home/school biling? baby language bilingualism?)
      • degree of `emotional' involvement in either language
      • social function (cf. Stewart's taxonomy of multilingualism)
      • literary and cultural value, international prestige of each language?

      Some other concepts, factors: notion of `additive' vs. `subtractive' (`replacive') bilingualism (Fishman) Does one language tend to be wiped out by another one? Societal or individual replacement? Can skills be added without others being subtracted?

  3. Language vs. Dialect

    Is competence in two dialects bilingualism? bidialectalism? How do these differ? How different are the two dialects? Is there diglossia with a division of functions? How extreme are the diglossic divergences? Can monodialectals passively understand the other (perhaps literary/liturgical/school) dialect? Studies of bilingualism/bilinguality usually concerned only with two codes that are mutually unintelligible and recognized as separate codes, though some diglossias fit this description. Diglossia is a matter of degree, and is a community phenomenon, not an individual variable, and may vary widely. (English may be in a diglossic relationship in one speech community and not in another, so we cannot speak of English as a "diglossic language".)

  4. Biculturalism and Bilinguality/ism

    What is the degree of cultural variation between the two cultures associated with the two languages? (How different are the two linguistic cultures?)

    Weinreich 1953 made a distinction between COMPOUND and COORDINATE bilingualism. The compound bilingual supposedly had one semantic system and two codes; the coordinate bilingual supposedly had two semantic systems, and two codes.

    Semantic System 1 Semantic System 2
    Language 1 Language 2


    One Semantic System
    Language 1 Language 2


    One might ask how much semantic overlap there might be between the two languages; closely related languages (e.g. Spanish and Italian) share much semantic overlap. Distantly related languages (e.g. Japanese and English) do not share much.

    Where there is widespread community bilingualism (e.g. in India) the semantic systems tend to converge over time, and so does language structure. Vastly different languages end up becoming very similar; Gumperz & Wilson study of trilingual area where Urdu, Marathi and Kannada had converged, but were still kept separate by the three communities (which differed in religion as well).

    Nowadays people think the difference is not so much separate semantic systems but separate (linguistic?) cultures: BICULTURALISM and degree of difference would be crucial. Note that biculturalism may exist without significant difference of linguistic codes.

    But see also this posting from Linguist-List about locational and lateralization differences, based on fMRI research.

  5. The main issue: Is Bilingualism a Burden or an Asset?

    1. Early Studies negative.

      See Haugen 1956 and especially Iiams 1976 for review of early negative studies, which found bilingualism to be bad for children. Early studies did not control for socioeconomic differences, or did not test children in their dominant language, etc. Was this a tacit part of the American linguistic culture of the post World War I era, with the dominance of such notions as:

      1. The `right' to an English-language education.
      2. The aftermath of Meyer vs. Nebraska, the banning of German.
      3. Superiority of English for teaching `American' ideas
      4. Isolationism, xenophobia of America in the 1920's (fear of Communism, labor radicalism; defeat of League of Nations)
      5. Trial of Sacco and Vanzetti, and their execution, on trumped-up charges.
      6. Need for foreign language education only for high-school (college prep) students (when only 5 to 10% went on to high school); no need in elementary ed.

    2. Rebirth of bilingual Education in 1960's

      Rise of a French-Canadian urbanized middle class (previously French-Canadians had been rural, educated only in religious schools. See cartoon stereotype of 'Pierre of the North.') and a resurgence of French Canadian identity, new studies among French Canadians controlled for socioeconomic factors, etc. found no deficit. Lambert and Peal 1962 found no shortcomings; French/English bilinguals in Montreal scored ahead of carefully-controlled monolinguals in both verbal and nonverbal measures of intelligence. Bilinguals had more `diversified structure of intelligence' and more `flexibility in thought.' Findings confirmed from research in Singapore, Switzerland, South Africa, Israel/NYC, other Canadian. Biling. children show `greater cognitive flexibility': they recognize the arbitrariness of words and their referents.

    3. French Immersion in Canada

      These findings coupled with other social forces in Canada led some English-Canadian parents to request French immersion schooling for their children in a Montreal anglophone suburb (St. Lambert). Findings continue to be positive; anglophone children educated solely in French (except for mother-tongue instruction, i.e. English `language arts' classes are in English) are at first behind in some subjects but by 6th grade they have caught up, and measure higher on some tests than carefully-controlled monolinguals, both French and English. Success of these programs has spread across Canada, and into the US (French, Spanish, other lgs.) and other countries.

      Some caveats:

      1. Is there a PYGMALION EFFECT?

      2. Is there a HAWTHORN EFFECT?

      3. Does it work best with intense parental involvement? (Is there a YUPPIE EFFECT?)

      4. Does this work only with majority-language children being immersed in a minority language? (Answer seems to be yes.)

      5. Would it work as well for minority-language children being immersed in a majority language program? (Answer seems to be no. )
      6. What happens to the kids who have trouble with the immersion? (What happens to any kid who has trouble with anything in any special program, in any public school program, or in any private school? They get quietly transferred out! )

      Despite the caveats, the notion that bilingualism is necessarily a burden is dispelled, but what has been learned is that

      • it takes societal support (involved parents, stay-at-home moms?)
      • it costs more,
      • it is not for everyone,
      • but it is not related to intelligence
      • nor does it affect intelligence adversely.

      But see most recent research on Singapore (Gopinathan et al. Language, Society and Eduation in Singapore, showing problems there.

      See also this report on A research Agenda for Improving Schooling for Language minority Children.

      Harold Schiffman
      last modified 10/13/05