Wednesday Seminar: The impact of multilingualism on inhibition, switching, and disengagement of attention: Evidence from healthy young speakers

Valantis Fyndanis (Researcher at MultiLing) will give a talk on the impact of multilingualism on inhibition, switching, and disengagement of attention.

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In this talk, I will present an exploratory study recently published by Boumeester, Michel, and Fyndanis (2019). This study focused on sequential bi-/multilinguals (specifically, nonimmigrant young Dutch native speakers who learned at least one foreign language (FL) at or after the age of 5) and investigated the impact of proficiency-based and amount-of-use-based degrees of multilingualism in different modalities on inhibition, switching, and disengagement of attention. Fifty-four participants completed a comprehensive background questionnaire, a nonverbal fluid intelligence task, a Flanker task, and the Trail Making Test. Correlational and regression analyses considering multilingualism related variables and other non-linguistic variables that may contribute to cognitive abilities (e.g., education, socioeconomic status, physical activity, playing video games) revealed that only proficiency-based degrees of multilingualism impacted cognitive abilities. Particularly, mean FL writing proficiency affected inhibition (i.e., significant positive flanker effect) and L2 listening proficiency influenced disengagement of attention (i.e., significant negative sequential congruency effect). Our findings suggest that only those speakers who have reached a certain proficiency threshold in more than one FL show a cognitive advantage, which, in our participants, emerged in inhibition only. Furthermore, FL proficiency in the writing and listening modalities mattered most.



Boumeester, M., Michel, M.C., & Fyndanis, V. (2019). Sequential multilingualism and cognitive abilities: Preliminary data on the contribution of language proficiency and use in different modalities. Behavioral Sciences9, 92. (26 pages) DOI: 10.3390/bs9090092


Valantis Fyndanis holds a PhD in Neuro-/Psycholinguistics (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki). His current work centers around three lines of research: (1) (morpho)syntactic and cognitive impairments in aphasia, Alzheimer’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, and healthy aging; (2) impact of bi-/multilingualism on cognitive and language abilities; and (3) assessment of aphasia. He is Researcher at MultiLing/Department of Linguistics and Scandinavian Studies at the University of Oslo, and Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Long Island University, Brooklyn Campus. Prior to these appointments, he held a postdoctoral research fellow position at MultiLing, and a Marie Curie fellow position in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Potsdam. Valantis Fyndanis also held research and teaching positions in Greece and in Italy. He has more than 40 publications including articles in prestigious peer-reviewed journals (e.g., Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing ResearchJournal of Neurolinguistics, Aphasiology) and delivered more than 50 presentations at relevant international conferences (e.g., Academy of Aphasia Annual MeetingsScience of Aphasia International Conferences). He has also attracted significant external funding. Currently, Valantis Fyndanis is Principal Investigator on a FRIPRO grant (“Machine Learning Aphasia”) awarded by the Research Council of Norway. 


Yesim Sevinc
Published Oct. 24, 2019 6:24 PM - Last modified Nov. 25, 2019 2:26 PM