Chapter 15

Language lateralization in bilinguals: enough already!

MICHEL PARADIS

THE OBSTINACY WITH WHICH psycholinguists continue to look for differences in hemispheric asymmetry between bilinguals and unilinguals is nothing short of astounding. Given the dead-end that the issue is faced with after over two decades of contradictory results, why would researchers want to carry out one more of the same type of inconclusive experiments? Yet the topic seems as popular as ever and scores of experiments continue to be submitted for publication with increasingly implausible interpretations, and, more disturbingly, with recommendations for application of the alleged finding of increased participation of the right hemisphere to foreign language teaching, the treatment of mental illness, or the rehabilitation of bilingual aphasia.

It is not the intention of this chapter to provide one more review of the literature on language lateralization in bilinguals. The reader will find comprehensive treatments in Vaid and Genesee (1980), Vaid (1983), and, more recently, critical reviews in Mendelsohn (1988) and Solin (1989). Suffice it to say that laterality differences have been reported for very specific subgroups of bilinguals and/or under very specific conditions, such as only for early (Orbach, 1967) or for late (Sussman et al., 1982; Albanèse, 1985) bilinguals, early or late bilingual women but only late bilingual men (Vaid and Lambert, 1979), or only when eyes are closed (Moss et al., 1985). Decreased asymmetry has been claimed to hold (exclusively) for just about every possible subgroup of bilinguals and its opposite: proficient late bilinguals having learned their second language formally (Bergh, 1986) as well as only those late bilinguals that are at the beginning stages of acquiring their second language informally (Galloway and Krashen, 1980). In other words, one author claimed to have found differences only in proficient late bilinguals (as opposed to beginners) who have learned

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