LINGUIST List 31.2472

Tue Aug 04 2020

Review: Neurolinguistics; Sociolinguistics: Schwieter, Paradis (2019)

Editor for this issue: Jeremy Coburn <>

Date: 06-May-2020
From: Teresa Ong <>
Subject: The Handbook of the Neuroscience of Multilingualism
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Book announced at

EDITOR: John W Schwieter
EDITOR: Michel Paradis
TITLE: The Handbook of the Neuroscience of Multilingualism
YEAR: 2019

REVIEWER: Teresa Wai See Ong, Griffith University


The Handbook of the Neuroscience of Multilingualism, edited by John W. Schwieter, comprises five parts. There is a special forward by Michel Paradis, an emeritus professor who plays a vital role in the field of neurolinguistics and psycholinguistics, followed by an overview of the handbook, written by John W. Schwieter and Rebecca Mueller. The handbook also includes a list of figures and tables, and an index.

Part I, entitled Theories and Methods, consists of eight articles defining the concepts related to multilingualism. The first chapter, written by Kess de Bot, defines multilingualism and provides models of multilingualism. The second chapter by Edna Andrews discusses some foundational concepts in linguistic theory and provides a glance at fMRI studies of languages. In the third chapter, Angela Grant, Jennifer Legault, and Ping Li talk about the bilingual interactive activation model and the extended versions. The fourth chapter by Eleonora Rossi, Kyra Krass, and Gerrit Jan Kootstra presents an overview of the major behavioural psycholinguistic methods that were used to investigate bi- and multilingual language processing. This part is continued by Nicole Y. Y. Wicha, Eva María Moreno, and Haydée Carrasco-Ortíz who discuss the methods used for studying the multilingual brain and present techniques to address the questions regarding the multilingual brain. In the next chapter, Angélique M. Blackburn deals with neuroimaging techniques to clarify our understanding of multilingual speech. Ludmila Isurin lists studies investigating memory traces of a forgotten language, while Vincent DeLuca, David Miller, Christos Pliatsikas, and Jason Rothman end this part with a review of EEG/ERP and FMRI data in search of the best account to address questions related to age for language acquisition/processing.

Part II, Neural Representations, includes eight articles on language organisation in the brain (Nicola Del Maschio and Jubin Abutalebi), bilingual word production (Jana Klaus and Herbert Schriefers), brain plasticity (Christos Pliatsikas), factors affecting cortical representation (Angélique M. Blackburn), individual differences in non-native speech perception (Begoña Díaz, Miguel Burgaleta, and Nuria Sebastian-Galles), lexical organisation (Gary Libben and John W. Schwieter), emotion concepts (Stephanie A. Kazanas, Jared S. Mclean, and Jeanette Altarriba), and humour representation (Jennifer Hofmann and Frank A. Rodden). Each article is distinctive in its own discussion on various functional neuroanatomy representations of the multilingual brain, and most authors conclude their articles by offering recommendations for further research. Hofmann and Rodden end the section by reviewing several case studies to provide insights into the processing of humour as a cognitive task.

Part III, called Functions and Processes, is comprised of nine chapters. First, Peter Bright, Julia Ouzia, and Roberto Filippi explore the process of metacognition. Second, Edalat Shekari and John W. Schwieter discuss the factors, including age of acquisition, that affect multilingual processing. Third, Allison M. Wilck, Jeanette Altarriba, Roberto R. Heredia, and John W. Schwieter examine the function of learning and memory in the bilingual brain. This is followed by a chapter, written by Zahra Hejazi, Jungna Kim, Teresa Signorelli Pisano, Yasmine Ouchikh, Aviva Lerman, and Loraine K. Obler, on second language learning in older adults and brain-based challenges related to the learning. In the next chapter, David W. Green explores the relationship between language control and attentional states during a conversation. This latter chapter is continued by another discussion on the relationship between language and executive control, written by Marco Calabria, Cristina Baus, and Albert Costa. Subsequently, Paola E. Dussias, Jorge R. Valdés Kroff, Anne L. Beatty-Martínez, and Michael A. Johns gather information about cognition based on an analysis of language experience, while Bruce J. Diamond and Geogory M. Shreve investigate the implications for executive control and neuroplasticity in the bilingual brain in relation to cross-language activity such as translation and interpreting. The last chapter, written by Anna Siyanova-Chanturia, Paolo Canal, and Roberto R. Heredia, explores event-related potentials in both monolingual and bilingual language processing.

Part IV – Impairments and Disorders – is comprised of six chapters related to various clinical conditions that affect language learning, comprehension, and production. Elisa Cargnelutti, Barbara Tomasino, and Franco Fabbro begin by providing insights into conceptual overlap related to the process of metacognition. Claudia Peñaloza and Swathi Kiran continue the discussion by primarily looking at the pre-morbid language-related and lesion factors that affect the degree of language impairment. Taryn Malcolm, Aviva Lerman, Marta Korytkowska, Jet M. J. Vonk, and Loraine K. Obler focus on reporting three variations of aphasia in bilinguals and multilinguals: non-fluent, semantic, and logopenic. Mira Goral’s chapter presents an exploration into reading disorders in bilinguals. Mariana Vega-Mendoza, Suvarna Alladi, and Thomas H. Bak continue by looking at the types of dementia that have small or great effects on multilinguals. Finally, Daria Smirnova, Sveta Fichman, and Joel Walters attempt to isolate language phenomena by providing a detailed description of the linguistic characteristics of schizophrenia and bilingualism.

Part V, Cognitive and Neurocognitive Consequences, has five chapters. In the beginning chapter, Hannah L. Claussenius-Kalman and Arturo E. Hernandez take on a developmental perspective by discussing the neurocognitive effects of multilingualism. This is followed by Yanping Dong and Fei Zhong’s report on the intense bilingual experience of interpreting. Kenneth Paap debates on the bilingual advantage in the next chapter through both qualitative and quantitative evidence. Angela de Bruin and Sergio Della continue the debate by looking at publication biases. The final chapter in this handbook, written by Robin L. Thompson and Eva Gutierrez-Sigut, compares speech-sign bilinguals with spoken language bilinguals.


In the current globalised era, bilingualism and multilingualism are considered the norms in the world’s population. Over the last 30 years, their importance has drawn much attention among the research community with mass migration worldwide, increasing travel, and development of electronic communication. Today, many researchers have moved away from the Chomskyan view of language apprehension. Instead, they view language as “grounded in mechanisms of sensory processing and motor control” (Paradis, 2019, p. xxxiii). Hence, various neuroscientific approaches are employed to study bilingualism and multilingualism and to discover valuable insights about how the brain handles various languages. Nevertheless, many questions regarding the relationship between the brain and language remain unanswered and therefore this handbook compiles answers to those questions.

The answers are divided into five parts. In the first part, various theories and methods used for examining the multilingual brain are discussed. What is interesting in this part is the extensive synthesis that covers foundational aspects of theory and mechanisms involved in the study of brain and language. In the second part, diverse examples of neural representations that demonstrate the unique functional anatomy of cognition are presented. Such studies have given remarkable insights into the processing and production of languages in the brain. The third part continues by exploring the functions and processes of learning and memory in the multilingual brain, while the fourth part further examines language impairments and disorders. Both parts are carefully linked – when a reader is informed of the multilingual processing of the brain, the reader will inevitably have queries regarding clinical conditions that affect the processing – and that is when both parts would provide significant answers to the reader’s queries. The final part engages with discussions on the neurocognitive effects of multilingualism. An interesting chapter to take note of in this part concerns publication bias – positive findings have higher probability of getting published as compared to null findings. Such bias brings further debate among researchers regarding the significance of presenting all data in regard to the results obtained and that reviewers should be fair when evaluating manuscripts regardless of the results presented.

The handbook has successfully achieved its goal in compiling answers to those unanswered questions. First, it serves as a window for researchers to probe into studying the multilingual brain, and second, the review of case studies in various chapters supports further examination and analysis that corresponds to the current trend in this field. Although some chapters include a table of past case studies, I find the lack of newly conducted experiments hinders my understanding of certain theories. It would be beneficial if results from the newly conducted experiments were integrated. A list of further references should also be included within each chapter to make everything clearer. Note that some chapters needed the reader to have basic knowledge of the topic prior to reading.

Overall, this handbook presents an inclusive evaluation from various scholars, ranging from psychologists to applied linguists, who have come together to raise key issues and theories on the literature of neuroscience of multilingualism. It also includes a chapter on speech-sign bilingualism, which is rarely seen in such a handbook, but it is worth reading and learning about a vulnerable group. With concrete review of past studies in most chapters, this handbook should be of interest to scholars and students in this field. Most importantly, seeing those studies allows us to better understand the complex phenomenon of multilingualism.


Paradis, M. (2019). Special foreword. In J. W. Schwieter (Ed.), The handbook of the neuroscience of multilingualism (pp. xxxiii – xxxvii). West Sussex: Wiley Blackwell.


Teresa Wai See Ong receives her doctorate in sociolinguistics from Griffith University in Australia. Her research interests include heritage language maintenance, language planning and policy, language and identity, and bilingualism and multilingualism.

Page Updated: 04-Aug-2020