Consequences Of Linguistic Frame Switching: Cognitive And Motivational Shifts In Bilingual Tunisians

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Bilingualism and biculturalism are of growing importance in the world today and of increasing research interest in social sciences. Since the seminal paper by Hong et al. (2000), researchers have explored cognitive consequences of cultural and/or linguistic frame switching on cognitive functioning, mainly causal attributions (Benet-Martinez et al., 2002). It was repeatedly found that when primed by either Chinese or Americans symbols, bicultural Chinese-Americans would act as monoculturals on each side of their hyphenated identity. Paradoxical effects of conflicting bicultural identity were also reported (Benet-Martinez, Haritatos 2005). Boski (2008) extended the arguments built on a particular cultural mix of Chinese-Americans category and the analytic - holistic cognitive divide, to other groups and to axiological domains among Polish-Americans. In the current study, bilingual Tunisians of two generations were asked questions pertaining to values entrenched in their immediate cultural milieu and about those reflecting their personal convictions. Also, they answered questions about their readiness to act according to extrinsic and intrinsic motivations, as well as about conflicts between these two tendencies. Language (Arabic vs. French) was the key contrasting variable in our study. The findings clearly demonstrated that when using the French language, participants of both generations became not only less extrinsic but also less intrinsic in their motivations based on the local Arabic culture. However, the degree of conflict between these two motivational tendencies became stronger among participants using French as a tool for communication. This research demonstrates the power of cultural representations based on language and adds to the arguments falsifying naïve beliefs in “perfect translations”.

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