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Better attention, better communication? How ADHD and multilingualism influence children’s pragmatic development

This project investigates the role of visual and executive attention in the pragmatic development of monolingual and multilingual children with and without Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Image of talking children

Photo: Colorbox

About the project


We explore the novel hypothesis that immature attention abilities could be at the heart of children’s persistent pragmatic difficulties with understanding non-literal language such as irony. Initial evidence for a tight link between attention and pragmatic development comes from two different groups: Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) have attention impairments and are also at higher risk for language and communication disorders. Multilingual children, on the other hand, seem to have benefits in both attention and pragmatics.


The project investigates the link between attentional abilities and pragmatic competence in 6- to 12-year-old children. We will test children from a wide spectrum of attention and language profiles, including children with ADHD, neuro-typical children, multilingual and monolingual speakers. Importantly, the project will be one of the first to explore the cognitive and communicative skills of multilingual children with ADHD.


The project uses a combination of eye-tracking experiments, cognitive and linguistic tests, and questionnaires to study children’s processing and understanding of figurative language and its underlying attentional mechanisms.

Work packages

  • WP 1: Visual attention during irony processing
  • WP 2: Uncovering a link between executive attention and communicative abilities


A better understanding of the interplay between attention and pragmatic development could advance knowledge in several disciplines such as linguistics, psychology, and philosophy. The project also aims to have a significant societal impact, contributing to better diagnostic tools to detect language and communication disorders in multilingual children.


August 2021 -  July 2025


The Research Council of Norway, FINNUT project no. 315368

Tags: Multilingual competence, Language Acquisition, Pragmatics, Psycholinguistics, Eye tracking
Published Feb. 13, 2020 4:20 PM - Last modified June 21, 2021 3:33 PM