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Award Detail

Doing Business As Name:Pennsylvania State Univ University Park
  • Judith F Kroll
  • (814) 571-6453
  • Paola E Dussias
  • Janet van Hell
Award Date:05/26/2010
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 249,694
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 249,694
  • FY 2010=$249,694
Start Date:06/01/2010
End Date:05/31/2014
Transaction Type:Grant
Awarding Agency Code:4900
Funding Agency Code:4900
CFDA Number:47.075
Primary Program Source:040100 NSF RESEARCH & RELATED ACTIVIT
Award Title or Description:Language Processing in Bilinguals
Federal Award ID Number:0955090
DUNS ID:003403953
Parent DUNS ID:003403953
Program:Perception, Action & Cognition
Program Officer:
  • Betty Tuller
  • (703) 292-7238

Awardee Location

Street:110 Technology Center Building
County:University Park
Awardee Cong. District:12

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:Pennsylvania State Univ University Park
Street:110 Technology Center Building
County:University Park
Cong. District:12

Abstract at Time of Award

Language scientists have discovered that bilinguals cannot easily "switch off" one of their languages. If bilinguals cannot easily function as monolinguals, then how do they control the use of the intended language? This research program investigates the conditions that enable bilinguals to select the intended language when words and grammatical structures in both languages are available. The work will explore how some sentence contexts restrict language processing to one language alone but others encourage code switching between the bilingual's two languages. The work uses the experience of bilinguals as a window into the nature of the interactions that characterize language processing and their consequences for cognitive control. This project has a number of broader implications. It seeks foundational knowledge about multilingualism that can inform educational issues in a society in which many learners are faced with the task of acquiring a second language after the earliest stages of childhood. The research will also contribute to the training of a diverse group of cognitive scientists by including bilingual undergraduate and graduate students and by fostering an international scientific collaboration with scientists in Spain.

Publications Produced as a Result of this Research

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Hermans, D., Ormel, E., Van den Besselaar, R., & Van Hell, J. G. "Lexical activation in bilinguals' speech production is dynamic: How language ambiguous words can affect cross-language activation." Language and Cognitive Processes, v.26, 2011, p.1687. doi:10.1080/01690965.2010.530411 

Kroll, JF; Van Hell, JG; Tokowicz, N; Green, DW "The Revised Hierarchical Model: A critical review and assessment" BILINGUALISM-LANGUAGE AND COGNITION, v.13, 2010, p.373. doi:10.1017/S136672891000009  View record at Web of Science

Jackson, C. N., & Van Hell, J. G. "The effects of L2 proficiency level on the processing of wh-questions among Dutch second language speakers of English." International Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching, v.49, 2011, p.195.

Dussias, PE; Pinar, P "Effects of reading span and plausibility in the reanalysis of wh-gaps by Chinese-English second language speakers" SECOND LANGUAGE RESEARCH, v.26, 2010, p.443. doi:10.1177/026765831037332  View record at Web of Science

Morford, J. P., Wilkinson, E., Villwock, A., Piñar, P. & Kroll, J. F. "When deaf signers read English: Do written words activate their sign translations?" Cognition, v.118, 2011, p.286.

Morford, J. P., Wilkinson, E., Villwock, A., Pinar, P. & Kroll, J. F. "When deaf signers read English: Do written words activate their sign translations?" Cognition, v.118, 2011, p.286. doi:, 

Brenders, P., Van Hell, J. G., & Dijkstra, T. "Word recognition in child second language learners: Evidence from cognates and false friends." Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, v.109, 2011, p.383. doi:0.1016/j.jecp.2011.03.012 

Pinar, P., & Dussias, P. E., Morford, J. P. "Deaf readers as bilinguals: An examination of deaf readers' print comprehension in light of current advances in bilingualism and second language processing." Linguistics and Language Compass, v.5/10, 2011, p.691.

Dussias, PE "Uses of Eye-Tracking Data in Second Language Sentence Processing Research" ANNUAL REVIEW OF APPLIED LINGUISTICS, v.30, 2010, p.149. doi:10.1017/S026719051000005  View record at Web of Science

Kootstra, GJ; van Hell, JG; Dijkstra, T "Syntactic alignment and shared word order in code-switched sentence production: Evidence from bilingual monologue and dialogue" JOURNAL OF MEMORY AND LANGUAGE, v.63, 2010, p.210. doi:10.1016/j.jml.2010.03.00  View record at Web of Science

Kroll, J. F., Bogulski, C. A., & McClain, R. "Psycholinguistic perspectives on second language learning and bilingualism: The course and consequence of cross-language competition." Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism., v.2, 2012, p.1. doi: 

Poarch*, G. J. & Van Hell, J. G. "Cross-language activation in children's speech production: Evidence from second language learners, bilinguals, and trilinguals." Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, v.111, 2012, p.419. doi:10.1016/j.jecp.2011.09.008 

Guo, T., Liu, H., Misra, M., & Kroll, J. F. "Local and global inhibition in bilingual word production: fMRI evidence from Chinese-English bilinguals." NeuroImage, v.56, 2011, p.2300. doi: 

Kroll, J. F. "The consequences of bilingualism for the mind and the brain. An introduction and commentary on E. Bialystok, F. I. M. Craik, D. W. Green, & T. H. Gollan, Ã?¢??Bilingual MindsÃ?¢??" Psychological Science in the Public Interest, v.10, 2009, p.i. doi:10.1177/1529100610389314 

Van Beijsterveldt, L. M., & Van Hell, J. G. "The development of deaf writers' tense marking in narrative and expository text: a bimodal bilingual perspective." Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, v.15, 2012, p.128. doi:10.1017/S1366728910000465 

Project Outcomes Report


This Project Outcomes Report for the General Public is displayed verbatim as submitted by the Principal Investigator (PI) for this award. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this Report are those of the PI and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation; NSF has not approved or endorsed its content.

In the last two decades, there has been a marked increase in research on second language learning and bilingualism (e.g., Kroll & Bialystok, 2013). There are many reasons for the heightened interest in these topics but a set of discoveries about language, cognition, and the brain have catapulted bilingualism into the forefront of cognitive psychology, linguistics, and cognitive neuroscience. Three discoveries are arguably the reason for the new excitement about multiple language use and its consequences (Kroll, Bobb, &  Hoshino, 2014).  The first is that there is compelling evidence to suggest that when bilinguals listen to speech, read, or plan speech in each language, there is parallel activation of the language not in use.  That observation, on its own, might be cause for concern because increased activation and potential competition across the bilingual’s two languages might be thought to give rise to errors, to cross-language confusions, and to difficulty in using language in contextually appropriate ways.  But contrary to these concerns, the evidence suggests that bilinguals develop ways to control the use of their two languages (e.g., Green, 1999).  The second discovery is that bilinguals are not generally disadvantaged by the presence of two languages and the potential competition between them, but instead learn to regulate the use of each language in a manner that confers a set of benefits to cognition and to the brain (e.g., Bialystok, Craik, Green, & Gollan, 2009).  The research on the cognitive and neural consequences of bilingualism suggests that the continuous experience of resolving cross-language competition creates expertise and efficiency beyond language, in solving cognitive problems that are not tied to language specifically.  The third discovery is that learning a second language comes to affect the native language in ways that change the entire language system, so that bilinguals differ from monolinguals, even when processing the same native language.  These new findings suggest that language is a dynamic system and that language learning is a dynamic process that is open to change, even for adults who are past early childhood.


With this context in mind, we conducted a series of studies with the support of the present grant that asked how bilinguals negotiate cross-language information when they read sentences in one language alone or when they read sentences that contain code switches, with words or phrases that are drawn from the other language. In some of the studies we performed, we asked how bilingual readers negotiate the ambiguity that is present when they encounter a word in one language that is similar in the other language (e.g., the word hotel is a cognate, with the same spelling and very similar pronunciation in Spanish). When a monolingual speaker encounters a cognate, the alternative form in the other language is nonexistent.  When a bilingual speaker encounters a cognate, the alternative form can either help or hurt, depending on how well it matches across languages and whether it is available to the bilingual. Many past studies, including those we have conducted ourselves, showed that bilinguals continue to have both languages available even when reading a sentence in one language alone.  With the support of the present grant we asked whether the grammatical form of the sentence might allow bilinguals to zoom in on the language of the sentence and to ignore potential cross-language ambiguity. We discovered, at least within the context of our experiments, that this was almost impossible to achieve.  We also showed that bilinguals can tolerate switches of language from one sentence to the other with little disruption. However, we found that bilinguals are able to exploit information about the socio-cultural context conveyed by a...

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