Bilingualism and Emotion: Implications for Mental Health



In a world where there are more bilinguals than monolinguals, it is becoming increasingly important to understand the roles that languages may play in their lives and development (Bialystok 2001; Schreuder and Weltens 1993). There is considerable debate over what degree of proficiency defines an individual as ‘bilingual.’ Language proficiency can vary from having some conversational fluency in one language, to being fully versed in reading, writing, and speaking two languages.

Researchers take different perspectives as to how languages are represented and stored. Some researchers theorize that a bilingual individual has two separate monolingual lexicons in which the languages are stored. These individuals are typically those who learn one language exclusively for the first part of their life, and then acquire a second language in a different context or location, and are referred to as coordinate bilinguals (Ervin 1961; Ervin and Osgood 1954; Grosjean 1982; Silva 2000; Heredia and Brown, chapter 11, this volume). Other researchers believe that experiences can be encoded in multiple languages, and thoughts and emotions can be labeled with both languages simultaneously. These bilinguals typically learn languages simultaneously, within the same context, location, and time, and are referred to as compound bilinguals.

Additionally, language is a primary means through which ...

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