Bilingualism & Cognition

SEM-Experimental Psych - PSYCH 7215-001

T 2:00 - 4:30PM - Spring 2006 - Muenzinger - Room D424

Instructor:Eliana Colunga
Office: Muenzinger Room D447-B
Office Phone: 303-492-4282
Office Hours: Th 10:00-11:00 and by appointment

Discussion Forum

Course Goals

A slew of evidence suggests that speaking more than one language leads to cognitive advantages in areas such as cognitive flexibility, linguistic and meta-linguistic abilities, concept formation, and creativity. This course will look at bilingualism with an emphasis on understanding the cognitive mechanisms involved in granting bilinguals their super-powers. Topics will include early bilingual development, adult bilingual development, bilingual memory and lexicon, bilingual processing, code-switching, language mixing, etc. These topics will be examined drawing from a variety of methodologies including psycholinguistics, neuroimaging and computational modeling.


We will meet once a week. Students are expected to prepare for each meeting by reading assigned material (approximately 2-4 research articles per week) and posting reactions to the readings to the online discussion forum, including 2-3 discussion questions for the whole class to discuss. Discussion questions will be due by 10PM the night before class meets. Readings will be posted Wednesday night, the week before they are due. If you require readings in advance for any reason, please let me know.

Each person will be assigned to lead 1-2 sessions, briefly presenting the major points of the readings and questions to stimulate discussion. These presentations are not meant to cover all the points in the papers, as the presenter can assume that everybody has read the readings. The presentation should highlight main points and also integrate the readings for the week. The questions posed for discussion by the presenter may be inspired by the questions posted on the discussion board, and at least some of them should try to be integrative and comparative, using the readings of the week, previous readings covered in class, and/or readings outside of class.

In addition, each person not presenting will be responsible for sending me feedback for the presenter, following the method pioneered by Lew Harvey. Within two days (by Friday 8am!) after each discussion, students should email me with at least 2 ``Strong Points'' and 2 ``Weak Points'' for that session. I will compile these comments, and give them to each presenter anonymously and privately. Students should strive for improvement on their second discussion.

During the semester we will have two debates on core issues of bilingualism. Each student will participate in one debate. Debate teams will be assigned in a semi-random fashion. The debate format, at least for the time being, will be as follows: The members of each team will divide the points they want to make among themselves. Each team member will present his/her argument, and all of the members of the other team will have the opportunity to respond. Each presentation will be limited to 15 minutes and each response to it to 10 minutes. Then chaos will ensue.

There will also be a final paper. The final paper (10-15 typed, double-spaced pages) should be on a topic related to class. We will discuss this in detail later in the course. Preparing these papers will require much work, thought and outside research, so you will do well to start early. The following timeline is designed to ensure that you make progress on your paper (4 of the 40 points for the paper will come from simply making each of the 4 deadlines before the final due date) and that you receive feedback on it before turning in the final version.

Deadline Assignment
March 7 Paper topic
March 14 Outline and references
April 11 Paper draft
late April Presentations
May 4 Final paper

Evaluation will thus be as follows:


Week Topic Materials
Week 1 Why do we care? (notes)
Bilingual super-powers
Week 2 Overview - Deanna

Diaz & Klingler, 91
Bialystock, 04
(but see)
Week 3 Cognitive Flexibility & Control- Maria

Okoh, 80
Bialystock & Shapiro, 05
Bialystock et al, 04
(an (old) theoretical synthesis)
Week 4 Metalinguistic abilities - Karin

Cromdal, 99
Bialystock, Majumder & Martin, 03
Rosenblum & Pinker, 93
(because I know you love these)
Week 5 debate: The bilingualism advantage is a linguistic phenomenon.
Bilingual processing
Week 6 Acquisition - Rachel

Genesee, 89
Kohnert & Bates, 02
Mishina-Mori, 05
(The Competition Model on bilingualism)
Week 7 Memory (lexical access) - Chandra

Kroll & Tokowicz, 05
Marian, Spivey, & Hirsch, 03
Costa, Miozzo, & Caramazza, 99
Week 8 Switching - Dusty
Paper topic due

Meuter, 05
Thomas & Allport, 00
Hernandez et al, 00
(classic code-switching)
Week 9 Task - Angela
Paper outline due

Abutalebi et al, 01
Christoffels et al, 03
Marian & Kaushanskaya, 04
Week 10 Computational Models - Eliana

French & Jacquet, 03
Thomas & van Heuven, 05
Week 11
Putting it all together
Week 12 DEBATE
Week 13 Brain stuff - All
Paper draft due
Week 14 Workshop - All
Week 15-16 Individual projects

Other information


A grade of incomplete will be given only if (1) all completed work is satisfactory (i.e., C- or better) and (2) there is a valid reason that you cannot complete the course. If you would like to be considered for an incomplete, contact me as soon as you know.

Statement about disabilities

If you qualify for accommodations because of a disability, please submit to me a letter from Disability Services (DS) early in the semester so that your needs may be addressed. DS determines accommodations based on documented disabilities (303-492-8671, Willard 322,

Academic dishonesty

Students are expected to adhere to the University of Colorado Student Honor Code for every assignment and exam in this class. Honor code information is at

Classroom behavior policy

The information on classroom behavior policy can be found at However, in addition to not being incredibly disruptive and obnoxious in class, I expect you to be on time for class meetings, not read newspapers or magazines in the classroom, not disrupt the class with conversation, interact with fellow students in a respectful manner during class discussions, ask questions when you don't understand the material, and communicate complaints, criticisms and suggestions either personally or anonymously to the instructor and/or teaching assistant.