Executive function predicts artificial language learning

Leah L. Kapa, John Colombo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Previous research suggests executive function (EF) advantages among bilinguals compared to monolingual peers, and these advantages are generally attributed to experience controlling two linguistic systems. However, the possibility that the relationship between bilingualism and EF might be bidirectional has not been widely considered; while experience with two languages might improve EF, better EF skills might also facilitate language learning. In the current studies, we tested whether adults' and preschool children's EF abilities predicted success in learning a novel artificial language. After controlling for working memory and English receptive vocabulary, adults' artificial language performance was predicted by their inhibitory control ability (Study 1) and children's performance was predicted by their attentional monitoring and shifting ability (Study 2). These findings provide preliminary evidence suggesting that EF processes may be employed during initial stages of language learning, particularly vocabulary acquisition, and support the possibility of a bidirectional relationship between EF and language acquisition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)237-252
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
StatePublished - Oct 2014


  • Artificial language
  • Attentional monitoring
  • Attentional shifting
  • Executive function
  • Inhibition
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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