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EXPLORATION OF CODE-SWITCHING AS A MECHANISM UNDERLYING EXECUTIVE FUNCTION PERFORMANCE IN 8-YEAR-OLD ENGLISH-CHINESE BILINGUALS

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Abstract

Previous studies of bilingual adults have suggested that bilinguals’ experience with code-switching contributes to superior executive function (EF) abilities, although this claim is debated to this date. This thesis tested the hypothesis that the relationship between CS and EF may be a non-necessary one, especially in a homogeneous and highly bilingual population in Singapore where CS occurs pervasively. Accordingly, CS and EF measures were obtained from 43 English-Chinese 8-year-old children (27 females, M = 8.33 years). Spontaneous CS was measured with a novel task, and EF was measured in terms of verbal and non-verbal task-switching (e.g., Semantic Fluency, Hearts and Flowers) and verbal inhibitory control (e.g., Stroop task). Contrary to previous work with adults, children’s CS performance did not significantly predict general EF performance. On the other hand, some aspects of bilingual language proficiency did predict EF performance. Chinese school exam scores predicted Semantic Fluency switch cost (higher Chinese scores, higher switch cost), while English school exam scores predicted English Stroop Interference (higher English scores, lower Stroop Interference). In addition, correlational analyses also showed that broad bilingual language proficiency (measured in terms of school exam Oral and Written components) did correlate with EF performance. For Semantic Fluency, higher Oral Chinese scores were correlated with more items produced on the Pure Chinese block as well as lower switch cost. Higher Written and Oral English scores also correlated with more items produced on the Mixed Language blocks as well as lower switch cost. For Stroop, higher Written English and English EI scores correlated with lower English Stroop Interference. Thus, we conclude that the relationship between CS and EF may be non-necessary in this particular population. These results suggest that in a proficient bilingual population that frequently engages in CS, the relationship between CS and EF may be an indirect one, even in a developmental population where EF and bilingual language proficiency are still developing.

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2017-05-30

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Cognitive Development; Executive Function; Psychology; Developmental psychology; Bilingualism; Children

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Union Local

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Committee Chair

Lust, Barbara C

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Wang, Qi
Thoemmes, Felix
Martohardjono, Gita

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Human Development

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Ph. D., Human Development

Degree Level

Doctor of Philosophy

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Government Document

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dissertation or thesis

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