Bilingualism and aging: Reversal of the cognate advantage in older bilingual adults

Samantha Siyambalapitiya*, Helen J. Chenery, David A. Copland

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


This study aimed to investigate cognate/noncognate processing distinctions in young adult bilinguals and examined whether the previously reported cognate facilitation effect would also be demonstrated in older adult bilinguals. Two groups of ItalianEnglish bilingual participants performed lexical decisions in repetition priming experiments. Results for the younger bilinguals corresponded to previous findings, and indicated the expected reaction time advantage for cognates over noncognates. The older bilinguals, however, only demonstrated a cognate advantage in the within-language condition, and in fact, showed faster reaction times for noncognates when repetition was across languages. These findings are interpreted in the context of the revised hierarchical model and the bilingual interactive activation model and in light of findings regarding the effect of aging on language processing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)531-554
Number of pages24
JournalApplied Psycholinguistics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2009
Externally publishedYes


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