The social side of multilingualism

What is the social significance of living in a world in which more than one language is spoken?  Do monolingual and bilingual children exhibit differences in social cognition?  Beyond differences in their language exposure, bilingual and monolingual children's social experiences may differ, too. Bilingual children monitor others' linguistic perspectives: who speaks what language to whom in what context, and how languages may change along social group lines.  Here I discuss recent research showing bilingual children show heightened attention to others' visual perspectives and referential cues when interpreting their intended meaning.  In this sense, bilingual and monolingual children's patterns of nonverbal communication differ.  Open questions concern the potential broader impact of multilingualism on children's developing social cognition.  Where possible, we will try to differentiate the potential impact of being bilingual or multilingual (i.e., hearing and speaking more than one language), from that being raised in a multilingual environment (i.e., being in a social environment where multiple languages are spoken).