Bilingual children show an advantage in controlling verbal interference during spoken language comprehension

Roberto Filippi*, John Morris, Fiona M. Richardson, Peter Bright, Michael S.C. Thomas, Annette Karmiloff-Smith, Viorica Marian

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Studies measuring inhibitory control in the visual modality have shown a bilingual advantage in both children and adults. However, there is a lack of developmental research on inhibitory control in the auditory modality. This study compared the comprehension of active and passive English sentences in 7-10 years old bilingual and monolingual children. The task was to identify the agent of a sentence in the presence of verbal interference. The target sentence was cued by the gender of the speaker. Children were instructed to focus on the sentence in the target voice and ignore the distractor sentence. Results indicate that bilinguals are more accurate than monolinguals in comprehending syntactically complex sentences in the presence of linguistic noise. This supports previous findings with adult participants (Filippi, Leech, Thomas, Green & Dick, 2012). We therefore conclude that the bilingual advantage in interference control begins early in life and is maintained throughout development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)490-501
Number of pages12
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 28 2015


  • bilingualism
  • control of interference
  • executive function
  • inhibitory control
  • sentence comprehension
  • spoken language processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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