Language and thought in bilinguals: The case of grammatical number and nonverbal classification preferences
Recent research shows that speakers of languages with obligatory plural marking (English) preferentially categorize objects based on common shape, whereas speakers of nonplural-marking classifier languages (Yucatec and Japanese) preferentially categorize objects based on common material. The current study extends that investigation to the domain of bilingualism. Japanese and English monolinguals, and Japanese–English bilinguals were asked to match novel objects based on either common shape or color. Results showed that English monolinguals selected shape significantly more than Japanese monolinguals, whereas the bilinguals shifted their cognitive preferences as a function of their second language proficiency. The implications of these findings for conceptual representation and cognitive processing in bilinguals are discussed.