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Language proficiency and executive control in bilingual children*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 February 2013

Department of English, Bar-Ilan University
Department of English & Gonda Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center, Bar-Ilan University
Address for correspondence: Peri Iluz-Cohen, The Department of English, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan,


The relation between language proficiency and executive functions has been established for monolingual children. The present study addresses this issue in bilingual children, comparing the language proficiency of sequential English–Hebrew bilingual preschool children as determined by standardized assessment instruments and generic executive control in inhibition, sorting and shifting tasks. Participants were recruited from regular and language preschools and classified according to their language proficiency as bilinguals with high language proficiency in at least one of their languages (including balanced bilinguals with high language proficiency in both languages, L2-dominant, and L1-dominant) and bilinguals showing low language proficiency in both languages. As reported for monolingual preschool children, positive relationships between language proficiency and inhibition and shifting abilities were found, with significantly lower performance among low language proficiency bilinguals. Significantly better performance was also found for shifting among children who had already mastered their L2 compared to those who were still in the process of acquiring the new language.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2013 

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The writing of this manuscript was partially supported by COST Action IS0804 “Language Impairment in a Multilingual Society: Linguistic Patterns and the Road to Assessment” ( The authors would like to thank members of COST Action IS0804 for valuable discussions, three anonymous reviewers for their most insightful comments, and Joel Walters for his endless support.


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