How Language Influences Executive Functions


  • Ekin Velioglu Eötvös Loránd University



In general, the domain known as executive function consists of multiple cognitive processes that are active in planning, monitoring, and executing plans to achieve a goal. The main processes in this domain are inhibition, working memory, and cognitive flexibility. It is possible that differences in linguistic processes, mainly monolingualism and bilingualism, additionally morphological differences, may interact with executive functioning.

The reason behind studying such a connection lies behind multiple hypotheses. Firstly, language according to multiple theories of development is an aid in the development and emergence of executive functions [1]. Secondly, many studies have yielded that bilingual showed better performance than monolinguals in executive functions which has been associated with the need for more inhibitory control required by bilingual speakers [2]. Morphological differences in spoken language may also be relevant to executive function differences specifically in attention and working memory [3]. Hence, this study investigates whether there is a positive correlation between executive function performance and level of bilingualism and the morphological status of the spoken languages.


Currently, I am involved in a study led by Professor Alexander Logemann which investigates mechanisms of self-regulation and includes Adapted Stop Signal Task (SST) and Visual Spatial Cueing Task (VSC). SST is a task designed to assess motor response inhibition while VSC assesses visual attention. The method of collecting data regarding linguistic abilities is not set yet, however, a possible tool of assessment includes Language Experience and Proficiency Questionnaire. This questionnaire measures proficiency, age of acquisition, type of language exposure, and many other dimensions that allow for judgment on the level of bilingualism. Identification of the languages they are proficient in will also reveal whether they are agglutinative or fusional language speakers. Data collected from these tasks and questionnaires could reveal information regarding the correlation between language and executive functions.


[1] U. Müller, S. Jacques, K. Brocki, and P. D. Zelazo, “The executive functions of language in preschool children,” Private Speech, Executive Functioning, and the Development of Verbal Self-Regulation, pp. 53–68, 2009. doi:10.1017/cbo9780511581533.005

[2] E. Chrysochoou, S. Kanaki, and A. B. Vivas, “Executive functions in French-greek early bilinguals: In search of the suggested bilingual advantage,” Psychology: the Journal of the Hellenic Psychological Society, vol. 25, no. 2, p. 76, 2020. doi:10.12681/psy_hps.25588

[3] J. Don, “What causes languages to be transparent?,” Language Sciences, vol. 60, pp. 133–143, 2017. doi:10.1016/j.langsci.2017.01.004