The Neurology of Bilingualism and Multilingualism

Bilingual Aphasia: Theoretical and Clinical Considerations

ELIZABETH IJALBA, LORAINE K. OBLER, AND SHYAMALA CHENGAPPA

Introduction

The questions surrounding bilingual aphasia are numerous – from theoretical frameworks of language organization and cognitive processing to clinical applications and even educational planning and interventions. A number of bilingual or polyglot speakers will experience aphasia at some point in their lives – yet much confusion exists regarding their language treatment. Likewise, many bilingual children with language impairment are caught in the uncertainty of what language(s) should be the focus of interventions. The study of aphasia – the set of language disorders that arise after a brain lesion – provides us with a window to understand brain organization and cognitive demands for language functions. The study of aphasia in bilinguals or polyglots seeks to answer questions regarding recovery patterns, i.e., which language (or languages) is recovered first following a lesion. Most crucially, the study of aphasia seeks to answer questions about bilingualism per se such as: Does our brain provide separate stores for each language we know? To what extent do languages share conceptual areas? How do linguistic constraints shape language organization and language processing? How are we able to switch between languages and use them appropriately and without interference? Are aphasic deficits due to a disruption ...

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