Since the earliest studies on multilingual advantages or effects, it has proved difficult to disentangle language development from general cognition. It remains unclear whether language interdependence is an independent variable or whether observable effects are mediated by cognitive ability. Measurable effects of one language on another typically go hand in hand with differences in cognitive ability. We hypothesize that high cognitive ability produces stronger language interdependence effects than low such ability. We approach this problem in the context of heritage bilingualism in Germany comparing a linguistically mixed cohort of bilingual students (n = 557; i.e., Russian-German, n = 237; Turkish-German, n = 320) with a monolingual German control (n = 852) regarding their proficiencies in the foreign language English. We ask whether the bilingual students manifest an English development that is different from their monolingually socialized peers. We place the students in three different groups depending on their performance in a visual-spatial cognitive ability test. We fit structural equation models to test whether heritage language and German proficiency impact English proficiency differently across these groups while additionally controlling for language background and socio-economic status. Results reveal differences between the high cognitive ability groups, here interpreted as a conditioned bilingualism effect.

About the speaker

Peter SIEMUND | Professor (Full) | MA, Dr. phil. habil. | University of  Hamburg, Hamburg | UHH | Institute of English and American StudiesProf. Dr. Peter Siemund is full professor in English Linguistics at the University of Hamburg and currently serving as Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Language Contact. He has specialized on multilingualism, language contact, and language variation and is among the most eminent linguists in Germany. Peter Siemund has successfully led major linguistic research clusters in Germany, e.g., the Collaborative Research Centre on Multilingualism (special research cluster) and the state excellence cluster Linguistic Diversity Management in Urban Areas (LiMA). He has successfully attracted funding for more than 10 third-party funded research projects and supervised more than 70 BA and over 100 MA theses (or equivalent degrees). His impressive research output includes 8 monographs, 9 edited volumes, and more than 90 articles in high-quality journals and edited volumes. 

If you would like to meet with Prof. Dr. Peter Siemund, please contact Martin Schweinberger.


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