Language and Cognitive Effects of Bilingualism: the Good, the Bad or the Ugly

Drasko Kascelan

Within the field of psycholinguistics, bilingualism has been one of the most intriguing and fascinating areas of research in the past few decades. This wide interest has produced a body of evidence from diverse bilingual/multilingual communities around the world, some aspects of which still remain controversial. In this course, the students can expect to learn about various bilingual contexts and how those contexts shape our mind and cognition. In what way do bilinguals’ languages develop? Do bilinguals have better cognitive functions than monolinguals? Is there any harm in speaking two languages? What is the effect of bilingualism on language and cognitive development in clinical populations (autism spectrum disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, specific language impairment)? Can bilingualism delay the onset of dementia? These are just some of the questions that will be addressed in this course. In addition, students will get an opportunity to learn about methodological approaches used to investigate bilingualism, and consequently design a research study. During the lectures, students will be given the background to various topics which will later be discussed in a series of seminars.

This course is aimed at: Students from a variety of backgrounds – psychologists, linguists, language teachers, translators, anthropologists, future education policy makers or simply language enthusiasts. Students interested in this course might also consider taking The Psychology of Language.

Pre-requisite knowledge required: Students are not expected to have any previous knowledge of the field.

Transferable knowledge and skills: critical thinking, reading and writing skills; knowledge of certain methodological approaches used in humanities and social sciences.


Grosjean, F., Li, P., & Biaylstok, E. (2013). The Psycholinguistics of Bilingualism. Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell/John Wiley & Sons.

Murphy, V. A. (2014). Second Language Learning in the Early School Years: Trends and Contexts. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Selected chapters from the above listed books will be assigned per lecture together with additional journal articles (the articles are available in electronic version through the University Library System). Students are more than welcome to read the above listed books before starting the course. However, this is not obligatory since they will get a detailed guidance on the chapters throughout the course. Nevertheless, readings must be completed before the lecture for which they are assigned.


 1 final essay (2,500-3,000 words): 50%

 1 final exam: 50%

Lecture hours: 12 x 1 hour 15 minutes (total 15 hours)

Seminar hours: 8 x 1 hour 15 minutes (total 10 hours)