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Category: Communication

Description: Despite the multifactorial space of language experience in which people continuously vary, bilinguals are often dichotomized into ostensibly homogeneous groups. The timing of language exposure (age of acquisition; AoA) to a second language (L2) is one well-studied construct that is known to impact language processing, cognitive processing, and brain organization, but recent work shows that current language exposure is also a crucial determinant in these domains. Critically, many indices of bilingual experience are inherently subjective and based on self-report questionnaires. Such measures have been criticized in favor of objective measures of language ability (e.g., naming ability or verbal fluency). Here, we estimate the bilingual experience jointly as a function of multiple continuous aspects of experience, including the timing of language exposure, the amount of L2 exposure across communicative contexts, and language entropy (a flexible measure of language balance) across communicative contexts. The results suggest that current language exposure exhibits distinct but interrelated patterns depending on the socio-experiential context of language usage. They also suggest that, counterintuitively, our sample more accurately self-assesses L2 proficiency than native language proficiency. A precise quantification of the multidimensional nature of bilingualism will enhance the ability of future research to assess language processing, acquisition, and control.

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