24.226, Review: Applied Linguistics; Sociolinguistics: Kharkhurin (2012)

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LINGUIST List: Vol-24-226. Mon Jan 14 2013. ISSN: 1069 - 4875.

Subject: 24.226, Review: Applied Linguistics; Sociolinguistics: Kharkhurin (2012)

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Date: Mon, 14 Jan 2013 11:48:47
From: Ali Karakas [akarakas at mehmetakif.edu.tr]
Subject: Multilingualism and Creativity

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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/23/23-3682.html

Author: Anatoliy Vladimirovich Kharkhurin
Title: Multilingualism and Creativity
Series Title: Bilingual Education and Bilingualism
Publisher: Multilingual Matters
Year: 2012

Reviewer: Ali Karakas, University of Southampton


This monograph, composed of eight chapters, explores the relationship between
multilingualism and creativity, which has been ignored in previous literature
and therefore stands out as a big gap awaiting to be bridged. With this
motivation, the book aims to revive this theme with the provision of a
theoretical framework strengthened by present-day experimental studies of the
relationship between multilingualism and creativity. In order to show the
impacts of multilingual practice on one’s creative potential, the findings of
a longitudinal empirical study conducted by the author himself are presented
to the readers. In the preface, one can find the rationale for writing the
book, along with its aims and organization, and a summary of the work. Below
is a summary of the book presented chapter by chapter.

Chapter 1, “Creative Cognition”, acquaints the readers with the ‘creative
cognition approach’, which takes “creativity as the generation of novel and
appropriate products through the application of basic cognitive processes to
existing knowledge structures” (Ward, 2007, p. 29). The association between
multilingualism and creativity is grounded within this research paradigm, on
which the rest of the book is built. The centerpiece of the discussion here is
laid mainly on two processes: ‘divergent and convergent thinking’. Of these,
divergent thinking relates to the process in which many different ideas on a
given topic are generated, while convergent thinking simply refers to the
process of combining different ideas on a topic into a single idea. The
chapter strongly stresses that any inattention to either of the processes, or
demeaning one at the expense of the other in creative research might end up
generating limited and incomplete results. In sum, the author here forms the
basis of the research via setting up a general framework in which the
association between multilingualism and creativity is weighed carefully.

Chapter 2, “Multilingual Cognition”, concisely provides a critical review of
relevant research on bilingualism and cognition by foregrounding bilinguals’
advantages, particularly on non-verbal cognitive tasks, based on a large body
of empirical studies. Certain focal issues, such as the link between
multilingualism and cognitive and linguistic development (e.g. of children and
adults), and advantages of being multilingually cognitive, are introduced to
the reader. The author elaborates on factors such as language proficiency and
age of language acquisition playing an inescapable role in characterizing
multilingual development. The chapter concludes with the presentation of a
structural model called ‘The Architecture of Bilingual Memory’ (for further
review see Bartolotti & Marian, 2012, Chapter 1), which constitutes the
author’s theoretical backcloth. Within this framework, certain factors that
influence multilingual cognition are explained to the reader.

Chapter 3, “Multilingual Creativity”, handles the main theme of the book:
‘creativity and multilingualism’. The relationship is demonstrated based on
the findings of a large quantity of empirical research on these two fields.
The writer shows that findings obtained in psychometric and historiometric
research favor bilinguals’ advantage over monolinguals, indicating a positive
link between multilingualism and creativity. However, it is also seen that
real life observations and laboratory findings do not overlap. This
inconsistency led methodological constraints like reliability and validity to
be cited by the author as potential issues of concern. It is also pointed out
that adults as a sampling group have not received much attention thus far.
Finally, the author presents his own longitudinal empirical project, which
aimed to overcome the identified restrictions and bring a new focus to this
area of research by including bilinguals from various historical, linguistic,
and cultural backgrounds. The inclusion of bilinguals who are culturally and
linguistically unalike was a distinguishing feature compared to other studies
of the research area. By applying strong methodological strategies, he
compared the creative performance of monolinguals and bilinguals from the same
linguistic and cultural background, as well as culturally and linguistically
different bilinguals. The findings generally support the hypothesis that
cross-culturally and linguistically experienced people have a higher level of
creative potential.

Chapter 4, “Multilingual Creative Cognition”, presents a line of empirical
studies conducted within the scope of multilingual creative development.
Potential cognitive mechanisms are sketched out, as inspired by participants’
cross-linguistic and cross-cultural experiences. The writer elucidates
assessment techniques – five different assessment tools – utilized in order to
realize the objectives of the project, which also included a group of
subsequent studies. The tools used are as follows: (1) ‘biographical
questionnaires’ to acquire information about participants’ personal
backgrounds like their place of origin, age of migration and languages spoken;
(2) ‘language proficiency assessment test’ to determine their linguistic
competences; (3) ‘divergent thinking assessment tests’ to measure their
divergent thinking abilities; (4) ‘structured imagination assessment’ to
assess their creative imagination; and (5) ‘fluid intelligent assessment’ to
evaluate their abilities to solve problems in an abstract way, which is
“relatively uninfluenced by experience” (Nairne, 2009, p. 316). The chapter
ends with a discussion of the findings. The main conclusions can be summarized
as follows: students of multilingual backgrounds outranked their monolingual
counterparts on various assessment tools; bilingual students exceeded their
monolingual English classmates in non-verbal creativity, whereas monolingual
students achieved higher scores in verbal creativity tests. To recap, the
results pointed to a clear bilingual advantage not only in creative but also
in cognitive skills.

Chapter 5, “Multilingual Creative Development”, complements the previous
chapter by expanding on the findings of previously mentioned studies with
regards to bilingual creative behavior. It specifies which factors play a part
in triggering the functioning of the mechanisms. It shows that there are three
major factors presumed to aid multilingual creativity, which are as follows:
cross-linguistic factors (e.g. age); cultural factors (e.g. socio-cultural
norms, values); and other factors (e.g. education, experience, personality
traits, and socioeconomic differences, among many others.

Chapter 6, “Implications of Multilingual Creativity Cognition for Creativity
Domains”, discusses the theoretical and speculative implications of the
researcher’s project by clarifying two creative capacities found in the
research: generative and innovative capacities are discussed along with
divergent and convergent thinking. The author suggests a more careful
definition of the notion of ‘creativity’. To this end, he proposes a
four-criteria construct that comprises the following functions: novelty,
utility, aesthetic and authenticity. Using this construct as a basis, the
author suggests an alternative model of creativity embracing various
approaches to creative thinking.

Chapter 7, “Implications of Multilingual Creativity Cognition for Education”,
centers on multilingual and creative dimensions of general education.
Furthermore, it raises particular concerns about bilingual and creative
education programs through a wide description of five essential attributes
that such programs should have. Next, the chapter places emphasis on
integrating bilingual and creativity education into school curricula, against
which criticisms are expressed for not encouraging students’ creative
abilities adequately. Following this argument, the chapter closes with a
suggestion of a new education program – bilingual creative education – within
which techniques and methods used both in bilingual and creative education are
blended for the purpose of fostering students’ creative capabilities in school

Chapter 8, “Conclusions”, sums up the main themes covered throughout the book,
with special attention on the theoretical framework of research. Having
summarized the findings of the project and compared it with previous studies,
the chapter closes by suggesting directions for future research and stressing
the need to further investigate the impact of multilingual practices on


This book is a ground-breaking contribution to the fields of multilingualism
and creative cognition, which is also expressed in the words of Viorica Marian
on the back cover of the book: “There are books on multilingualism, and there
are books on creativity. Anatoliy V. Kharkhurin [the author] does a masterful
job at bringing together these two fields in a comprehensive review that will
hold the interest of both a novice student and a seasoned scientist”. The
author achieves the aims of the book through a thorough examination of the
relationship between multilingualism and creativity and by supporting this
relation with solid evidence discovered as a result of his own research
project. The book is particularly intended for those having a special interest
in bilingualism, multilingualism and creativity. Further, it is also possible
that scholars and students of linguistics, along with educators keen to foster
learners’ creativity and boost their foreign language learning, might find the
monograph helpful, interesting and inspiring.

The first two chapters of the book are devoted to creative and multilingual
cognition. These two chapters may be regarded as a little too technical for
readers with no background knowledge of creativity, even if they are
specialists in multilingualism and bilingualism. They require further
understanding and background knowledge on the part of the reader. An issue
that may raise confusion in the reader is the terminological ambiguity in the
book. For example, even though the book claims its aim to be an ‘investigation
of the relationship between multilingualism and creativity’, the great
majority of the findings cited are the results of studies that were carried
out with bilinguals rather than multilinguals. This pitfall is also evident in
the writer’s own project, in relation to the participants’ status; namely, it
is unclear whether they are multilingual or bilingual, and how the application
of these labels was determined.

The book is well-situated in the literature as a complement to past research
that failed to address the issues of creativity and multilingualism as an
interdisciplinary research area. The assumptions raised within the book find
support in the findings of earlier studies on bilingualism, multilingualism
and creativity separately. Moreover, the research introduced in the book opens
new potential directions for investigating the relationship between
multilingualism and creativity, and the positive impacts of multilingual
practices on an individual’s creativity.

‘Multilingualism and Creativity’ is not a complete summary of the relationship
between creativity and multilingualism, but rather a recent and initial spark
ignited to illuminate that relationship. It is clear that the author has
achieved what he aimed to do: give a substantial amount of evidence showing
the positive impacts of multilingualism/bilingualism on creativity. The author
presents both empirical and theoretical instructive information regarding this
interdisciplinary field, which has so far, regrettably, received little
attention. While doing this, the author has a clear, personal style that makes
the text reader-friendly and manageable. The findings are informative, the
arguments raised are thought-provoking, and the conclusion is clear, concise
and coherent. All in all, this work is commendable, involving the reader in a
multidisciplinary understanding of multilingualism and creativity. In short,
it is a marvelously readable book and well worth the time and effort.


Bartolotti, J. & Marian, V. (2012). Bilingual memory: structure, access, and
processing. In J.

Altarriba & L. Isurin (Eds.). Memory, Language, and Bilingualism: Theoretical
and Applied Approaches (pp. 7-47). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Nairne, J. S. (2009). Psychology (5th. Ed.). Belmont: Thomson Higher

Ward, T. B. (2007). Creative cognition as a window on creativity. Methods,
42(1), 28-37.

About the Reviewer:
Ali Karakas is a Research Assistant at Mehmet Akif Ersoy University, Burdur,
and is currently working on his Ph.D thesis on the perceptions of English in
English-medium Universities in Turkey at the University Of Southampton, UK.
His main research interests include ELF, World Englishes, Sociolinguistic,
Linguistic Anthropology, Language Teacher Education, Applied Phonetics and
Computer Assisted Language Teaching.

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