Cognitive Processing

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 225–241 | Cite as

Speaking two languages with different number naming systems: What implications for magnitude judgments in bilinguals at different stages of language acquisition?

  • Amandine Van RinsveldEmail author
  • Christine Schiltz
  • Karin Landerl
  • Martin Brunner
  • Sonja Ugen
Research Report


Differences between languages in terms of number naming systems may lead to performance differences in number processing. The current study focused on differences concerning the order of decades and units in two-digit number words (i.e., unit-decade order in German but decade-unit order in French) and how they affect number magnitude judgments. Participants performed basic numerical tasks, namely two-digit number magnitude judgments, and we used the compatibility effect (Nuerk et al. in Cognition 82(1):B25–B33, 2001) as a hallmark of language influence on numbers. In the first part we aimed to understand the influence of language on compatibility effects in adults coming from German or French monolingual and German–French bilingual groups (Experiment 1). The second part examined how this language influence develops at different stages of language acquisition in individuals with increasing bilingual proficiency (Experiment 2). Language systematically influenced magnitude judgments such that: (a) The spoken language(s) modulated magnitude judgments presented as Arabic digits, and (b) bilinguals’ progressive language mastery impacted magnitude judgments presented as number words. Taken together, the current results suggest that the order of decades and units in verbal numbers may qualitatively influence magnitude judgments in bilinguals and monolinguals, providing new insights into how number processing can be influenced by language(s).


Bilingualism Number words Magnitude judgments Language acquisition 



The current research was funded by the Luxembourgish Fund for Scientific Research (FNR, Luxembourg) in the framework of the LangNum CORE project. The authors declare no conflict of interest that might be interpreted as influencing the research, and APA ethical standards were followed in the conduct of this work. We especially thank Prof. Alain Content who allowed us to test in his laboratory. We gratefully thank all the participants, the schools for their permission to recruit student participants and the student helpers for their support in the data collection.


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Copyright information

© Marta Olivetti Belardinelli and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amandine Van Rinsveld
    • 1
    Email author
  • Christine Schiltz
    • 1
  • Karin Landerl
    • 2
  • Martin Brunner
    • 3
  • Sonja Ugen
    • 4
  1. 1.Institute of Cognitive Science and Assessment, Education, Culture, Cognition and Society research UnitUniversity of LuxembourgEsch-sur-AlzetteLuxembourg
  2. 2.Department of Psychology-Developmental PsychologyUniversity of GrazGrazAustria
  3. 3.Free University of Berlin and Berlin-Brandenburg Institute for School QualityBerlinGermany
  4. 4.Luxembourg Center for Educational Testing, LUCETUniversity of LuxembourgEsch-sur-AlzetteLuxembourg

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