Beyond the binary of status and solidarity: The cognitive dimension of attitudes towards childhood multilingualism

  • Kircher, R. (Speaker)
  • Erin Quirk (Speaker)
  • Melanie Brouillard (Speaker)
  • Alexa Ahooja (Speaker)
  • Susan Ballinger (Speaker)
  • Linda Polka (Speaker)
  • Krista Byers-Heinlein (Speaker)

Activiteit: Toespraak of presentatieAcademisch


Attitudes towards individual languages have two main evaluative dimensions: status (linked to a language’s utilitarian value) and solidarity (linked to individuals’ social identity and ingroup loyalty; e.g. Giles & Watson, 2013). These attitudes influence a wide range of linguistic behaviours, including parents’ decisions regarding intergenerational language transmission (Kircher, 2019).
Conceptually distinct from attitudes towards specific languages are attitudes towards multilingualism. Theoretical models have posited that parents’ attitudes towards childhood multilingualism also constitute a crucial determinant of intergenerational language transmission (e.g. De Houwer, 2020). Yet, there is a paucity of empirical research regarding this. An understanding of the dimensionality of parental attitudes towards childhood multilingualism is key as a basis for any subsequent research regarding the association between attitudes and transmission.
Here, we present the first large-scale, quantitative study of the evaluative dimensions of attitudes towards childhood multilingualism among parents in the Canadian province of Quebec. We used a questionnaire to gather data from 826 parents raising an infant/toddler aged 0-4 years with multiple languages in the home. Factor analysis of these data revealed three separate dimensions: In addition to status and solidarity (the same dimensions found in attitudes towards individual languages) we also found evidence of a cognitive development dimension (which had not previously been attested as a separate dimension). Attitudes on this newly-discovered dimension were found to manifest in parents’ belief that knowing multiple languages entails cognitive benefits for their child, such as making them a better learner, a more flexible thinker, and improving their reasoning abilities.
We discuss how going beyond the binary of status and solidarity - by also considering the cognitive development dimension - contributes to attitude theory. Moreover, we elaborate on how it enables more nuanced and comprehensive insights in follow-up research regarding the association of parental attitudes towards childhood multilingualism and intergenerational language transmission.
Periode14 jul. 2022
Mate van erkenningInternationaal


  • multilingualism
  • language attitudes
  • heritage languages