My research focuses on the interplay between language experience and cognition in monolinguals and bilinguals across the lifespan. In this talk, I will present recent research from my lab that investigates how certain cognitive factors (e.g., attention allocation, executive function, metalinguistic awareness, etc.) interact with bilingual development in neurotypical and atypical children who learn either Spanish and Basque or English and Urdu (homogenous bilinguals), or English and another language (heterogenous bilinguals) from birth.

Our findings so far demonstrate that (i) increased attention allocation (especially auditory attention) is one form of bilingual adaption during development; (ii) performance on a metalinguistic awareness test in one language (e.g., phonological awareness) is supported by both languages of a bilingual, while there are no major differences between the performance of monolinguals and bilinguals; (iii) bilingual exposure is not detrimental to the development of those children who are not neurotypical; however, bilingualism is not necessarily a protective factor when it comes to cognitive development. Overall, acquiring two languages simultaneously appears to pose no serious challenge to the developing neurotypical/atypical mind even though bilingual acquisition requires the computation of two sets of linguistic regularities simultaneously.

What is behind the success of bilinguals? I will argue that the extra level of computation necessary for bilingual acquisition relies on certain cognitive resources, specifically attention allocation, to a larger extent in bilinguals than in monolinguals.