Within the last hundred years, cognitive psychologists’ views on bilingualism have changed diametrically. In the first half of the 20th century, there was a general agreement that growing up with two languages leads to mental confusion and retardation. Researchers from the late 20th and early 21st century, however, have claimed that bilingualism provides the brain with extra training, which enhances cognitive performance and health. This reversal was paralleled by a general ideological shift in Western societies, from the monolingual nation-state model to the celebration of bilingualism under multicultural and neoliberal ideologies. In fact, the very countries that developed into strongholds of research into bilingualism and cognition at different moments in time were precisely those where bilingualism has been a politically contested issue. Analyzing scientific publications as pieces of metalinguistic discourse, we argue that the way how psychologists have interpreted their data and construed explanatory models is tacitly based on commonly held beliefs on language and its role in society, and closely entangled with different actors’ interests. Scientific practice does not exist in a vacuum but emerges from social and cultural experience in tune with the zeitgeist and overarching political atmosphere.
Demystifying Bilingualism. How Metaphor Guides Research towards Mythification
London: Palgrave Macmillan, Cham, 2021
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The path to bilingualism, a better road to cognitive performance? Metaphors of language learning in Cognitive Science
In: Piske, Thorsten; Steinlen, Anja (Hrsg.): Cognition and Second Language Acquisition. Studies on Pre-Schools, Primary School, Primary School and Secondary School Children, Tübingen: Narr, 2022, S. 335-364
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