In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Psycholinguistic Perspectives on Second Language Acquisition and Bilingualism

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Journals
  • Experimental Methods
  • The Critical Period Hypothesis
  • Speech Development in Early Bilinguals
  • Mapping Second Language Words to Concepts
  • Bilingual Word Recognition
  • Acquiring and Using Semantics in the L2
  • L2 Syntax and Sentence Processing
  • The Influence of the L2 on the Native Language (L1)
  • Cross-Language Activation in Spoken Production
  • Language Switching and Mechanisms of Control
  • The Cognitive Consequences of Bilingualism

Linguistics Psycholinguistic Perspectives on Second Language Acquisition and Bilingualism
Eleonora Rossi, Judith Kroll
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 November 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199772810-0037


How do the mind and brain accommodate the presence of more than one language? Since the 1990s, a tremendous surge of research has been undertaken on second language (L2) acquisition and bilingualism. In part, the increasing interest in these topics reflects a recognition that speaking more than one language is a natural circumstance of life in many places in the world. But it also reveals the insight that the use of more than one language may serve as a tool to language scientists who seek to understand the way that language and cognition interact in language processing and in the neural processes that support language use. An important finding is that neither L2 learners nor bilinguals are able to voluntarily switch off the language not in use. Although the nature of cross-language interactions has been shown to change as individuals acquire proficiency in the L2, those interactions are present in various forms for all L2 learners and bilinguals. A consequence of cross-language interaction is that changes are observed in the native language of bilinguals, and a lifetime of negotiating these cross-language interactions seems to produce long-lasting changes in cognition that benefit bilinguals relative to similar monolingual speakers. The first part of this article presents a representative overview of research that takes a cognitive approach to L2 learning and bilingualism. The writing of this bibliography was supported, in part, by NIH Grant HD082796 and NSF Grants BCS-1535124 and OISE-1545900 to Judith F. Kroll.

General Overviews

Two early and excellent overviews of research on bilingualism, Grosjean 1982 and Hakuta 1986, framed the work to come in the next two decades. A series of handbooks has appeared since then that vary in their breadth, with Bhatia and Ritchie 2004 the broadest, the two volumes edited by de Groot and Kroll more specifically focused on psycholinguistics (de Groot and Kroll 1997, Kroll and de Groot 2005), and Healy and Bourne 1998 concerned with issues of vocabulary acquisition and learning. Other texts are addressed to central issues in the literature, such as code-switching (e.g., Myers-Scotton 2002). A more recent overview of cognitive approaches can be found in de Groot 2011.

  • Bhatia, T. K., and W. C. Ritchie, eds. 2004. The handbook of bilingualism. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

    A broad overview of research on bilingualism from the perspective of linguistics, applied linguistics, sociolinguistics, and psycholinguistics.

  • de Groot, A. M. B. 2011. Language and cognition in bilinguals and multilinguals: An introduction. New York: Psychology Press.

    An overview of theories and evidence about bilingual performance from a psycholinguistic perspective.

  • de Groot, A. M. B., and J. F. Kroll, eds. 1997. Tutorials in bilingualism: Psycholinguistic perspectives. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

    An edited volume on the state of psycholinguistic research on bilingualism as research on this topic was beginning to grow rapidly.

  • Grosjean, F. 1982. Life with two languages: An introduction to bilingualism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

    An important early text on research on bilingualism, on the contexts in which bilingual research is performed, and on the consequences of bilingualism for understanding language processes more generally.

  • Hakuta, K. 1986. Mirror of language: The debate on bilingualism. New York: Basic Books.

    Like Grosjean 1982, an early text that places research on bilingualism in the broader context of linguistics, applied linguistics, and psycholinguistics.

  • Healy, A. F., and L. E. Bourne Jr., eds. 1998. Foreign language learning: Psycholinguistic studies on training and retention. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

    An edited volume focused on particular aspects of vocabulary learning in a foreign language and the way in which laboratory training studies can be used to simulate actual language learning.

  • Kroll, J. F., and A. M. B. de Groot. 2005. Handbook of bilingualism: Psycholinguistic approaches. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    An extensive edited volume on developments within psycholinguistic research on bilingualism, including cognitive neuroscience approaches.

  • Myers-Scotton, C. 2002. Contact linguistics: Bilingual encounters and grammatical outcomes. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198299530.001.0001

    One of a series of books by Myers-Scotton, a leading linguist, who has exploited the presence of code-switched speech to consider the consequences of bilingualism and language contact for the representation of grammatical structures in each language.

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