Thinking-for-speaking in early and late bilinguals

Vicky Tzuyin Lai, Gabriela Garrido Rodriguez, Bhuvana Narasimhan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


When speakers describe motion events using different languages, they subsequently classify those events in language-specific ways (Gennari, Sloman, Malt & Fitch, 2002). Here we ask if bilingual speakers flexibly shift their event classification preferences based on the language in which they verbally encode those events. English-Spanish bilinguals and monolingual controls described motion events in either Spanish or English. Subsequently they judged the similarity of the motion events in a triad task. Bilinguals tested in Spanish and Spanish monolinguals were more likely to make similarity judgments based on the path of motion versus bilinguals tested in English and English monolinguals. The effect is modulated in bilinguals by the age of acquisition of the second language. Late bilinguals based their judgments on path more often when Spanish was used to describe the motion events versus English. Early bilinguals had a path preference independent of the language in use. These findings support "thinking-for-speaking" (Slobin, 1996) in late bilinguals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-152
Number of pages14
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014


  • Age of acquisition
  • Language and thought
  • Mental representation
  • Motion verbs
  • Spanish-English bilinguals

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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