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Inhibitory control predicts language switching performance in trilingual speech production*


This study investigated the role of domain-general inhibitory control in trilingual speech production. Taking an individual differences approach, we examined the relationship between performance on a non-linguistic measure of inhibitory control (the Simon task) and a multilingual language switching task for a group of fifty-six native English (L1) speakers learning French (L2) and Spanish (L3). Better inhibitory control was related to reduced switch costs, but only when switching into or out of the more dominant L1, where inhibitory control has been theorized to be most important (Green, 1998). The results provide evidence of a direct link between inhibitory control abilities and language switching capabilities, and suggest constraints on the conditions under which a domain-general inhibitory control mechanism supports language switching.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Jared A. Linck, University of Maryland Center for Advanced Study of Language, 7005 52nd Avenue, College Park, MD 20742, USA
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The authors thank Scott Jackson and Bob Slevc for comments on a previous draft of the manuscript, and Anat Prior, David Green and one anonymous reviewer for comments throughout the review process. A portion of these results were presented at the annual meeting of the American Assocation for Applied Linguistics, March 2011.

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Bilingualism: Language and Cognition
  • ISSN: 1366-7289
  • EISSN: 1469-1841
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