Edited by Ellen Bialystok and Margot D. Sullivan
[Studies in Bilingualism 53] 2017
► pp. 99–130
Chapter 6. Does bilingual language control decline in older age?
We investigated age-related decline of bilingual language control. Thirteen older and 13 younger bilinguals performed a verbal fluency task (completing the same letter and semantic categories in each language and switching languages after every category), and a non-linguistic flanker task. In letter fluency, bilinguals produced fewer correct responses after switching languages, suggesting inhibition of the previously-used language. However, this testing-order effect did not differ between groups and older bilinguals produced few wrong-language intrusions, implying intact ability to apply inhibition in older age. In contrast, age-related deficits in the flanker task were robust, implying dissociations between language control and domain-general executive control. In semantic fluency, there were no testing-order effects but older bilinguals produced more intrusions than younger bilinguals, and more intrusions than in letter fluency. Thus, bilinguals may flexibly modulate the degree of inhibition when they can benefit from semantic priming between languages, but less efficiently so in older age.