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Current Funded Projects

Faculty members in the School have achieved high levels of success in securing funding from all three Canadian Research Councils (CIHR, NSERC, SSHRC), Quebec Research Councils, and from international and private funding sources. The following provides a list of major funded research projects being conducted by SCSD faculty:

 


 Dr. Shari Baum

FQRNT Team Grant (2011-2014)
« Le développement sensori-moteur de la parole : Expérimentation et modélisation »

Principal Investigator with Lucie Ménard

This research project, led by an international multidisciplinary team, aims to study the emergence of sensori-motor links in children during the course of speech development. We view speech as a sensori-motor behaviour whose different stages of development require the complex interaction of perceptual and production mechanisms. More specifically, the research project represents an exhaustive examination of speech as it is produced and perceived by 4-year old and 6-year old children, as well as adults. Because the multimodal nature (auditory and visual, among others) of sensori-motor integration processes has been previously demonstrated, our investigations focus on populations characterized by various types of sensory deprivation: deaf children and adults (using the visual modality), blind children and adults (using the auditory modality), and children and adults with normal hearing and vision (audio-visual modality). This approach will permit us to evaluate the relative weightings of different types of sensory information to which the young speaker is exposed.

Version française

Ce projet de recherche, mené par une équipe internationale multidisciplinaire, vise à étudier l’émergence des liens sensori-moteurs chez l’enfant au cours du développement de la parole. Nous envisageons la parole comme un comportement sensori- moteur, dont les différentes étapes d’acquisition chez l’enfant impliquent l’interaction complexe des mécanismes de perception et de production. De façon plus spécifique, le projet de recherche consiste en une étude exhaustive de la parole produite et perçue par des enfants âgés de quatre et six ans et par des adultes. Puisque la nature multimodale (auditive et visuelle, entre autres) des processus d’intégration sensori-motrice de la parole a été démontrée par plusieurs, notre étude porte sur des populations caractérisées par différentes privations sensorielles:  les enfants et les adultes sourds (modalité visuelle), les enfants et les adultes aveugles (modalité auditive) et les enfants et les adultes entendants et voyants (modalité audio-visuelle). Cette approche nous permettra d’évaluer le poids relatif des différents types d’informations sensorielles auxquelles est exposé le jeune locuteur.

 

NSERC Discovery Grant (2011-2016)
"Sensorimotor control of speech"

Principal Investigator

Although the ability to produce clear speech is such a critical aspect of daily life, we have only a limited understanding of how the motor programs for speech are developed and implemented. One means of examining this issue is to explore the response of the speech production system to externally-imposed changes that mimic, in part, natural alterations in the environment. The proposed program of research does just this, by investigating the sensorimotor factors involved in the development of novel speech articulation programs in response to manipulations of sensory input. A series of experiments will focus on how speakers modify their tongue position (and the resulting sound output) when faced with two cooperating or competing sources of input: altered auditory feedback and alterations to vocal tract shape. Two additional series of experiments will explore the brain structures that support this flexibility in sensorimotor integration for speech using various functional neuroimaging methods. The findings have implications not only for our understanding of how speech is produced under varying conditions, but also for understanding developmental and acquired impairments of speech production.

 

SSHRC Research Grant (2010-2013)
"Bilingual speech processing"

Principal Investigator

While the acquisition of a first language is universal among normally developing individuals, the learning of a second language is a skill of variable proficiency that depends in large part on age of exposure. Remarkably, fluent bilinguals and multilinguals understand tens of thousands of words in each tongue. Yet, they make few noticeable errors when they speak in either language (Kroll et al., 2008). The question as to whether a bilingual's two languages are represented in distinct or overlapping areas of the brain and the degree to which speakers maintain independent phonological systems has been the focus of a great deal of research. The advent of sensitive neuroimaging techniques, especially functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scanning, have added greatly to our ability to more precisely determine the brain loci involved in bilingual language processing. In the present proposal, we will examine in detail the speech production and perceptual abilities of two groups of bilingual subjects outside the scanning environment and include the resulting data as important predictor variables in explaining differing patterns of brain activation that may emerge. In a series of three experiments, we will compare late L2 learners to simultaneous bilingual subjects, an ever-increasing population in Quebec, along with monolingual control groups. With a more detailed description of the perceptual and production characteristics of the different bilingual subjects, we predict that brain activation differences can be more clearly understood and important issues regarding language representation in the bilingual brain can be addressed. The issue of how plastic the brain is with respect to environmental influences is of special relevance in Canada, because of its multilingual population. Understanding how speech is produced and perceived by bilingual speakers with varying learner backgrounds will not only illuminate the debate about critical periods for language, but also may yield insights into improved approaches to language education and even accent reduction strategies, important in the workforce.


Dr. Meghan Clayards

British Academy Small Research Grant (2012-2013)
"Language learning and variability"

Collaborator with Dr. Elizabeth Wonnacott-PI

This research investigates how children and adults learn language and whether they are influenced by the same factors. We will be comparing two groups of learners, children and adults learning English in Greece. They will receive daily training in distinguishing between the vowel sound in words like 'sheep' and the vowel sound in words like 'ship' which is an important difference in English but difficult for native speakers of Greek to hear. Before and after training we will test how well they can perceive and produce these vowels. Previous work has shown that while children initially perform more poorly on tests of perceiving these vowels, they learn quickly, eventually surpassing the adults. Previous work has also shown that adults benefit from training with multiple talkers instead of just one. In our experiments we will test whether children also benefit from hearing multiple talkers.

 

FRQSC Nouveaux Chercheurs (2011-2014)
« Une analyse acoustique de la réduction dans les discours de type conversationnel »

Principal Investigator

This research investigates the acoustic characteristics of conversational style speech. Much is known about the acoustic characteristics of careful laboratory style speech. Conversational style speech is less well studied but understanding it is important for our understanding of normal spoken interaction, building and using human-machine interfaces and extracting information from spoken digital medial. One important difference between careful and conversational speech is that in careful speech all acoustic information is available and in conversational speech some words are highly compressed. One important question is is how and when acoustic information is compromised in order to achieve this and whether this compressed speech may contain more phonetic information than first thought. This research project investigates how acoustic information is altered in cases of compression and how it relates to information content. We are looking at words from conversational style speech in situations where they provide new and important information and in situations where they are informationaly redundant. Perception experiments will then test whether the amount of acoustic information correlates with the ease of recognition.


Dr. Vincent Gracco

FQRNT Team Grant (2011-2017)
« Substrats Neuronaux Du Développement Moteur De La Parole »
Principal Investigator with David Ostry-PI and Douglas Shiller

For this collaborative project, we will study healthy children from ages 5 to 12 and healthy adults. We will use fMRI measures of functional connectivity to study the neural substrates of speech motor development in children using a combined psychophysical-neuroimaging approach that enables us to relate changes in functional connectivity in brain networks to behavioral measures of learning in both motor and sensory domains.

 

NIH Grant (2012-2017)
"Speech Motor Learning And Sensory Plasticity In Children And Adults"

Principal Investigator with David Ostry-PI and Douglas Shiller

Our focus is to quantify changes in brain networks in children and adults using an experimental model of speech motor learning in which we different kinds of auditory and somatosensory perturbations in conjunction with different neuroimaging modalities (structural and functional MRI, DTI, TMS) are used to study the development and maintenance of sensory error and feedforward control processes associated with speech motor learning.

 

NSERC Discovery Grant (2012-2017)
"Studies Of Neuroplasticity In Speech Processes"

Principal Investigator

Here we will use short-term and longer-term sensorimotor learning paradigms combined with studies of the functional and structural brain changes and extraordinary subject populations (professional speakers, trained singers and language interpreters) to identify and assess neuroplasticity in speech production and perception. The overall goal is to better understand the factors that govern neuroplasticity potential in adults and identify the functional consequences.

 




Regroupement Stratégique FQRNT/FQRSC (2011-2017)

"Centre for Research on Brain, Language & Music"

Principal Investigator

McGill’s Centre for Research on Brain, Language and Music (CRBLM) at McGill University is a Regroupements Stratégiques maintaining faculty and student research support, research training and scholarly development across four Montreal universities (McGill, Université de Montréal, UQAM and Concordia). Our mission includes: promoting the scientific study of language and music neuroscience, stimulating interdisciplinary and cross-domain collaboration among researchers on basic and applied problems in language and music, fostering innovative research training for graduate and postdoctoral students, disseminating research findings to clinical and educational end-users and forming national and international partnerships. Our goal is to develop a fundamental theoretical, behavioral and neuroscientific understanding of the neurobiological, social and communicative processes of language and music.


Dr. Aparna Nadig

Max Bell Foundation Grant (2011-2014)
"From Practice to Public Policy: A Service Delivery Model to Better Support Young Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders in the Transition from School to the Community"

Co-Investigator with Tara Flanagan, PhD

We propose a demonstration project, a group-format Transition and Social Inclusion Program for Young Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). This program addresses a clear need for transition support for this population, while tackling capacity-building needs by providing placements for practitioners-in-training: Master’s students in Speech Language Pathology and Inclusive Education. Immediate goals are to a) increase quality of life ratings by the young adults involved and ratings of their communication and social skills via the report of family members, and b) to train new practitioners to work with this older and higher-functioning population that is poorly served by existing educational services. Moreover, policy makers require empirical evidence of effectiveness to put services into action. To address this need we will conduct a research study on the effects of the intervention, employing a waiting-list control group. Results will be disseminated in both policy and scientific circles. Moving forward, this novel and low-cost service delivery model could be implemented more broadly. Our ultimate goal is to provide a feasible model that Canadian policy makers can use to respond to the challenge of providing transition services for young adults with ASD.

 

SSHRC Insight Development Grant (2011-2013)
"Routes to general knowledge: Social versus nonsocial learning"

Principal Investigator

We learn about the world both through interactions with it (which can be nonsocial) and through observations of others interacting with it (often accompanied by social inferences). For example, the world of objects we have created poses a learning challenge, especially for preverbal infants. These objects may have observable physical properties from which we can induce their use or function, but often the function is not transparent or is at best ambiguous, as in the case of a remote control (Hernik & Csibra, 2009). In these cases we can rely on cultural or social learning to grasp the object's intended function. How do social versus nonsocial routes to learning compare when it comes to infants' understanding what an object is used for?

In the current proposal we ask about the types of information that influence learning from observation by exploring infants' use of cues that are either social or nonsocial. Specifically, we ask whether learning about object function through observation is enhanced through being provided with social cues (such as greeting the child, child directed speech, making eye contact) before demonstrating the function, and we ask whether mere repeated presentation of the demonstration is also effective (Experiment 1). We then examine whether the learning from the social or nonsocial cues (or their interaction) differentially affects how the knowledge is generalized across objects (Experiments 2 and 3) and across people (Experiment 4).

Based on the current proposal, the field will have a better understanding of the situations under which infants learn about object function, as well their ability to extend this knowledge appropriately. As the cues explored are both social (ostensive) and nonsocial (repeated exposure) in nature, this will provide information on different routes to learning in infancy more generally. Finally, this kind of knowledge could lead to future research in populations that are differentially sensitive to these types of cues, such as children with autism.


Dr. Marc Pell

NSERC Discovery Grant (2011-2016)
"Neuro-cognitive studies of vocal emotion processing in speech"

Principal Investigator

The new field of “social neuroscience” is developing rapidly, and there is a recent surge of interest in how humans communicate their emotions and respond to emotional stimuli. In this research program, we investigate a topic that has been somewhat neglected in this growing field—how emotions are expressed and understood from the human voice while speaking, and how related mental functions are structured in the brain. To recognize vocal expressions of emotion, for example that convey anger or joy, listeners must process dynamic acoustic properties of speech–i.e., ongoing fluctuations in pitch, loudness, and rhythm which differentiate over time in emotionally meaningful ways. The fact that emotional expressions in the voice are uniquely represented across time raises a critical empirical issue: how quickly do we detect emotions when listening to a speaker’s voice? And what neural structures are involved? The time course for recognizing emotional meanings in speech has received little attention from researchers, although this knowledge will be fundamental for describing the human capacity for acoustic communication and the basis of this system in the brain. Another question that we will address is: when listeners recognize vocal expressions of emotion, does this information guide their visual attention and/or judgements of visual stimuli (e.g., facial expressions) in systematic ways? Answering this question will tell us much about natural social interactions, where humans are typically confronted by emotional cues in more than one sensory modality and must integrate these different cues in socially meaningful and adaptive ways. Our studies will involve young, healthy adults and our questions will be tested from different vantage points, using complementary methods at the forefront of cognitive neuroscience (behavioural approaches, eye-tracking, electrophysiology, and neuroimaging). Our research will lead to a more sophisticated model of the neuro-cognitive mechanisms that support emotional communication through the voice, and in broad terms, it will shed light on the uniquely human capacity to communicate both linguistic and emotional meanings using complex auditory signals. Our results will energize debate and new ideas which will significantly advance this rich new area of social and affective neuroscience.





CIHR/Parkinson Society Canada, Operating Grants (2011-2013)

"Effects of Parkinson’s disease on social cognition and communication"

Principal Investigator

Over the lifespan, human health and well-being hinges on the ability to communicate effectively with others and to maintain social relationships. While most take these skills for granted, the ability to function successfully in social situations is highly complex and depends on the preservation of different mental abilities, such as the ability to infer the emotions of others, to determine their perspectives and intentions, and to appropriately use this knowledge to guide behaviour and interpersonal communication. In adults with Parkinson’s disease, degeneration of the brain leads to progressive difficulties that affect movement, but also specific mental abilities that are critical for social functioning. The goal of our research is to specify how changes in mental functioning in individuals with Parkinson’s disease impact on their ability to process emotions and to make social inferences (e.g., take other people’s perspectives, understand their intentions, etc.). At the same time, our research will document the impact of Parkinson’ disease on interpersonal communication from the perspective of listeners who are naïve to the patient’s disease status. Our undertakings will lead to new clinical insights about how mental and communication skills are affected by Parkinson’s disease, and shed light on the psychological and social barriers faced by individuals suffering from the disease. Our findings will serve as a vital resource for clinicians and caregivers who work to maintain the quality of life and independence of individuals living with Parkinson’s disease.

 

FRSQ Chercheur-boursier Senior (2010-2014)
« Conséquences de la maladie de Parkinson sur la communication et la perception du Langage »
Principal Investigator

Pour les êtres humains, l’aptitude à communiquer efficacement est essentielle à une bonne santé mentale et à l’autonomie fonctionnelle en société. Les travaux de recherche des dix dernières années montrent que la capacité de communiquer et les aptitudes cognitives sont souvent altérées par les modifications neurodégénératives qui surviennent dans le cerveau au début de la maladie de Parkinson. Le présent programme a pour objectif d’approfondir les recherches sur la nature et l’ampleur des troubles de la communication présentées par les adultes atteints de la maladie de Parkinson, dans deux principaux aspects : la compréhension du langage non verbal (émotions traduites par le ton de la voix ou l’expression du visage) et l’interprétation du contenu sous-entendu, induit « non littéral » du langage verbal (métaphores ou attitudes du locateur). Nous mettons nos hypothèses à l’épreuve en soumettant à une batterie de tests des adultes sains et d’autres atteints de la maladie de Parkinson dont nous évaluons la capacité de communication réceptive et les aptitudes de traitement du langage. Nos découvertes permettront d’accroître notre savoir sur les aspects clinique et social de la maladie de Parkinson, points essentiels pour améliorer les stratégies cliniques visant à préserver l’autonomie et la qualité de vie des malades.


Dr. Linda Polka

NSERC Grant (2012-2017)
"The development of phonetic perception"

Principal Investigator

This research program explores the development of speech perception in infancy through investigations that focus on vowel perception. Our goal is to fully portray vowel perception biases that young infants display in response to speech, explain how and when these perceptual biases form in development, and establish their role in the acquisition of spoken language. In pursuing these goals we will test and elaborate a new conceptual model, the Natural Referent Vowel (NRV) framework. According to this view vowels with specific articulatory-acoustic properties (which define the most peripheral vowels in a traditional vowel space) acts a natural referents: they support and guide the development of vowel perception by attracting infant attention and establishing a stable frame of reference for the learner. Prior studies of infant listening preferences for different vowels support this view by showing that infants (4 to 12 months of age) have a strong perceptual bias favoring peripheral vowels. Study 1 will assess when (and how) these perceptual biases are initially formed in early infancy. We will compare 2-month-olds and newborns to assess test the hypothesis that vowel perception biases emerge early in life via an interaction between infant neuro-auditory abilities and speech exposure. Studies 2 & 3 will test the NRV claim that peripheral vowels support the development of vowel perception and production. Study 2 tests the prediction that vowel perception biases also impact how babies perceive their own vocal patterns by examining infant listening preferences for vowels produced by an infant talker (using a new vowel synthesis tool). Study 3 will assess infant ability to recognize the same vowel produced by different talkers (adult, child, infant) to test the NRV prediction that vowel categorization skills develop in a stepwise, hierarchical manner such that peripheral vowel categories are acquired more easily and prior to non-peripheral vowel categories. This will be the first study to investigate how infants perceive infant-produced vocal signals. This approach is needed to understand how speaking and listening skills interact in infant speech development.

My research explores the development of speech perception in infancy. The work proposed here focuses on how vowel perception changes with age and language experience to support language acquisition. Our goal is to fully portray vowel perception biases that young infants display in response to speech, explain how and when these perceptual biases form in development, and examine their role in the acquisition of spoken language. In pursuing these goals we will test and elaborate a new conceptual model, the Natural Referent Vowel (NRV) framework. According to this view peripheral vowels acts a natural referents: they support and guide the development of vowel perception by attracting infant attention and establishing a stable frame of reference for the learner. Peripheral vowels define the boundaries with respects to vowel articulator gesture and acoustic properties.


Dr. Susan Rvachew

NSERC Grant (2012-2017)
"Impact of Speech Input on Speech Production Learning"

Principal Investigator

The purpose of this research program is to understand how babies gradually learn to produce speech sounds that match those produced by the adults that they interact with on a day to day basis. We will videorecord repeated exchanges between parent and infant as the child grows older. We will submit these recordings to sophisticated acoustic analyses in order to pinpoint the age at which the infant begins to produce sounds that are acoustically similar to the parent’s speech. We are particularly interested in how the timing of the parent’s speech input to the baby influences the quality of the baby’s speech. Some parents will be asked to initiate the exchanges by introducing new words to their infants and waiting to see if the infant replies. Other parents will be asked to wait for their infant to vocalize and then imitate their infant’s sounds. Analysis of the video and audio recordings of the baby’s learning during these interactions will help us to identify critical ages and mechanisms for speech production learning during the infant period. This research will, in the long run, help us to develop improved methods for intervening with infants who have difficulty learning to talk at the expected rate.

 

SSHRC Grant (2012-2015)
"Impact of Digital Tablets on Shared Reading Interactions and Outcomes"

Principal Investigator

This project is concerned with understanding the social, cognitive and literacy implications of e-books implemented on digital tablets when used by children and adults in a shared reading context. The project has four components: (1) partnership development, (2) training and mentoring, (2) research and (4) knowledge mobilization. The project will result in e-books that are better adapted to the needs of diverse users and which are effective in the promotion of both foundational literacy skills and transferable digital competencies by children and adults.

 

CASANA Grant (2012-2013)
"Comparison of Alternative Prepractice Conditions in the Treatment of Childhood Apraxia of Speech using a Single Subject Randomization Design"

Principal Investigator

This project is concerned with the treatment of a severe speech disorder in which the children produce a high frequency of inconsistent speech errors. Children will be taught core vocabulary words and phrases using integral stimulation techniques. A single subject research design will be used to establish whether this approach is more effective than no treatment. Subsequently we will try to improve the effectiveness of the integral stimulation techniques with the addition of special prepractice procedures. The relative effectiveness of two types of prepractice procedures will be tested. Some prepractice procedures will focus on the child’s perceptual knowledge of the target words and phrases. In a contrasting treatment condition, the prepractice conditions will focus on the child’s ability to construct a motor plan for the target words and phrases.

 

FRQSC Grant (2010-2014)
« Développement d’un outil de dépistage de la dysorthographie base sur des compétences multiples du langage oral: un nouvel outil normalisé et validé pour le français québécois »

Principal Investigator

Nous désirons développer un outil de dépistage permettant d’identifier, dès la première année du primaire, les enfants les plus à risque de présenter un trouble d’apprentissage des règles orthographiques (dysorthographie). Cet outil exemplifiera un écart unique et significatif d'autres tâches existantes parce qu’il sera fondé sur les domaines cognitivo-linguistiques sous-jacents à l’orthographe et adopte une approche multidisciplinaire. La compétence orthographique est corrélée avec plusieurs aspects du langage oral : la production phonologique, la conscience phonologique, la perception de la parole et la compétence grammaticale. Cependant, les tests existants ne sont toujours pas normalisés et validés en français québécois. Le principal résultat de ce projet sera un outil de dépistage spécialement adapté aux jeunes enfants francophones du Québec.


Dr. Karsten Steinhauer

CRBLM Grant (2012-2013)
"Studying the time-course of lexical access using masked priming"

Co-Principal Investigator

Although aging adults can show lexical access difficulties, most studies focus on semantic processing and rare are those that study morphological aspects of lexical access. This study addresses the representation and processing of morphology in adults, as well as how aging affects lexical access. Using a primed lexical decision task in young and aging adults, we will examine which factors mitigate word recognition (age in conjunction with orthographic, semantic and morphological processing). The project is supported by an Incubator grant from the Centre for Research on Brain, Language and Music (CRBLM) in Montreal.

 

FQRSC Grant (2009-2013)
« Effets de maturation sur l'acquisition et le traitement langagiers
»
Co-Principal Investigator »

This FQRSC-funded team grant brings together linguists, psychologists, neuroscientists and experts in communication disorders to investigate how age effects influence the acquisition and processing of language in both childhood and adulthood. Some of the projects involve ERP studies of prosodic processing in second language learners.

 

NSERC Grant (2012-2016)
"Brain signatures of nativeness in second language acquisition II"

Principal Investigator

This NSERC-funded research program uses event-related brain potentials (ERPs) to study the brain mechanisms underlying second language (L2) acquisition and processing (in both natural and ‘artificial’ languages). I am especially interested in how these mechanisms are influenced by the interaction of multiple factors. Most of our data suggest that, contra to the popular ‘critical period hypothesis’, language proficiency rather than age of L2 acquisition predicts the brain signatures, including ‘native-like’ activation patterns even in adult L2 learners that reach high proficiency. First language (L1) background seems to interfere with L2 primarily at low levels of L2 proficiency (transfer effects), but L1 grammar remains co-activated at higher levels. A recent project (with PhD student Kristina Kasparian) investigates whether and how L1 brain mechanisms change when L2-dominant immigrants start ‘losing’ their mother tongue.





CRC/CIHR Grant (2008-2013)

"Neurocognition of Language – Electrophysiological Investigations"

Principal Investigator

In addition to the funded projects listed above, ERP research in my Neurocognition of Language Lab also continues to address many other issues in language processing. For example, some of these studies investigate prosodic processing in speech and music, real-time interactions between syntax and other types of information (e.g., semantics, prosody), and the integration of visual and auditory information. While several related grant proposals are either underway or in preparation, these projects are currently supported by funds from the Canada Research Chair program (CRC-CIHR), which also helped me establish the EEG lab at McGill.


Dr. Elin Thordardottir

SSHRC Grant (2011-2014)
"Effects of bilingual exposure on bilingual acquisition"

Principal Investigator

Bilingual and multilingual people constitute a significant proportion of the Canadian population. Many children attend school in a language different from their home language, either by choice by enrolment in immersion programs, or by necessity, due to the unavailability of schools in their language. Attitudes towards childhood bilingualism have generally become increasingly positive, due in part to research demonstrating children's ability to thrive in bilingual environments. However, not all children succeed equally well. The goal of this research program is to increase our understanding of the typical course of bilingual language acquisition in different bilingual backgrounds with an eye to better understanding how best to support bilingual acquisition. The research focuses in particular on the role of amount of input received in each language, the timing of this input (age of onset), and the status of the child's home language as a minority or majority language, providing much-needed practical information while at the same time addressing fundamental theoretical issues, namely the role of input in acquisition and the existence and timing of critical periods. The study takes advantage of the unique language context of Montreal to separately assess the impact of these factors which are confounded in most bilingual populations.

A good command of language is essential in everyday life as well as for school success. Bilingual children often experience varying degrees of difficulty as they adjust to new language environments. To judge whether individual children are developing their language at the expected pace, a normative reference base is required. Bilingual norms are severely lacking and a major difficulty in developing them is the heterogeneity of the bilingual population in terms, notably, of the amount and timing of their bilingual exposure, as well as socio-economic status. New research arising from my previous SSHRC grant has greatly contributed to clarifying the relationship between amount of bilingual exposure and performance in preschool children learning two majority languages (French and English) simultaneously. The present research extends this line of investigation to school-age children with early and late onset of bilingual exposure and from more varied language backgrounds, including majority and minority languages. Early onset has been argued to be required to avoid missing critical periods of acquisition. In contrast is the view that building a strong threshold level in the first language, and thus a later onset, is the best preparation for learning a second language. The proposed research proposes a novel approach to addressing this question by examining the effect of early and late onset times while carefully controlling amount of input. This is made possible by the rare language context of Montreal. A related question addressed is how the ability to attain near-native bilingual performance relates to amount of input and timing.

Two additional factors are addressed in this research: the influence on bilingual language learning of minority vs. majority status of the languages to be learned, as previous research suggests. Therefore, separate norms may be needed for these languages groups. Finally, previous research has indicated that executive function skills are enhanced in bilingual children, in particular in children with highly proficient life-long bilingualism. The planned research will further explore whether such a bilingual advantage is found in children with later onsets of bilingual exposure and how it relates to amount and timing of input versus bilingual proficiency attained.