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Monolingual and bilingual 6-8 year old children display N400 responses differentially mediated by proficiency and age of acquisition
University of Oregon, USA.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-6731-1522
University of Oregon, USA.
University of Oregon, USA. (Brain Development Lab)
2009 (English)In: NLC 2009 Scientific Program: The Neurobiology of Language Conference, Marriott Downtown Hotel, 540 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, US, 2009, p. 45-46Conference paper, Poster (with or without abstract) (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Previous event-related potential (ERP) studies have consistently found an N400 effect elicited by violations of semantic expectancy in monolingual adults (Kutas & Hilllyard, 1980), bilingual adults (Weber-Fox & Neville, 1996) and monolingual children (Holcomb, Coffey, & Neville, 1992). In adults, when the second language is acquired before the age of 11 years, no differences are found in the amplitude, latency, or distribution of the N400 effect when compared to monolinguals. However, if the age of acquisition (AOA) is later than 11 years, an increase in peak latency is often reported (e.g. Weber-Fox & Neville, 1996). Studies of semantic processing in monolingual children have found a more widely distributed N400 effect compared to monolingual adults’. In addition, both the amplitude and onset latency are found to decrease with age (Holcomb, Coffey, & Neville, 1992).

In order to begin investigating the factors important in establishing normal semantic processing in bilinguals, we compared the N400 responses to semantic anomalies in 6-8 year old monolingual English speakers and in native Spanish speaking children who began acquiring English at about 4 years of age. To examine the effects of proficiency, each group was divided into higher and lower proficiency groups. In addition bilinguals and monolinguals individually matched on age and proficiency were compared. ERPs were recorded while children listened to naturally spoken English sentences that were either canonical or that were semantic anomalies (p = .5) and watched an accompanying claymation movie. 

Analyses of the N400 mean amplitude indicated a typical N400 response for both groups, though that of monolingual children was larger, more widespread, and had an earlier onset (180msec) in comparison with that of bilingual children (320msec). Though these children were matched on age they differed in proficiency (Receptive Language) and Socioeconomic status (SES; as measured by maternal education). When dividing children by proficiency within each group similar relationships with amplitude, distribution, and onset were found. (Higher and lower proficiency bilingual groups did not differ on AOA). When comparing monolingual and bilingual children that were individually matched on age and proficiency, N400 onset latency was similar (320msec) but the distribution differed across groups. More specifically, monolingual children showed a larger and more widespread effect that was largest over medial central sites while bilingual children had an effect that was largest over posterior sites. These results suggest that speed of semantic processing in children between 6 and 8 years of age is affected by proficiency rather than AOA, while the distribution of the effect could be affected by differences in AOA and/or SES across groups. No differences in the N400 effect are found comparing monolingual adults and bilingual adults who began acquiring their second language before age 11 (Weber-Fox, & Neville, 1996). Therefore, we are continuing to study the development of semantic processes indexed by the N400 in bilingual children in order to determine at what proficiency level and/or years of experience of the second language does the difference between monolingual and bilingual late learners disappear.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2009. p. 45-46
Keywords [en]
ERP, N400, children, semantic processing, bilingual, proficiency
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Social Sciences, Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-70854OAI: oai:DiVA.org:lnu-70854DiVA, id: diva2:1188758
Conference
The Neurobiology of Language Conference, NLC 2009, Marriott Downtown Hotel, 540 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, US
Available from: 2018-03-08 Created: 2018-03-08 Last updated: 2018-03-13Bibliographically approved

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Andersson, Annika

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CiteExportLink to record
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Citation style
  • apa
  • harvard1
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  • modern-language-association-8th-edition
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