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Bilingual lexical processing in single word production: Swedish learners of Spanish and the effects of L2 immersion
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Languages, Department of Linguistics and Philology.
2011 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Bilingual speakers cannot suppress activation from their dominant language while naming pictures in a foreign and less dominant language. Previous research has revealed that this cross-langauge activation is manifested through phonological facilitation, semantic interference and between language competition. However, this research is based exclusively on highly proficient bilinguals. The present study investigates cross-linguistic activation in Swedish learners of Spanish, grouped according to their length of Spanish immersion, and one of the groups is in its very inital stages of learning. Participants named pictures in Spanish in two picture-word interference experiments, one with only non-cognates, and one including cognates. This study addresses the following research questions; (1) do the two groups of participants differ significantly from one another in terms of cross-linguistic activation, (2) what does cross-language activation look like in initial stages of L2 acquisition, (3) how does cognate status affect cross-linguistic activation and does this differ between participants depending on length of immersion?

The experiments show that cross-linguistic influence is dependent on length of immersion. The more immersed participants performed very similarly to what is usually the case in highly proficient bilinguals while the less immersed participants did not. The results of the less immersed participants are interpreted as manifestations of lexical processing in initial stages of L2 acquisition. Since this type of learner has never been tested before, there are no previous results to compare to. The results are discussed in relation to the large tradition of offline research which has shown that beginning learners predominantly process their L2 phonologically, and that conceptual processing is something requiring more L2 development.

Furthermore, the cognate word induced longer naming latencies in all participants and it turned out that the cognate words were highly unfamiliar. Hence all participants are sensitive to word frequency effects, and this sensitive is greater in early stages of learning. Finally this study suggests that more research must be conducted to establish cross-linguistic influence between the many languages of multi-lingual subjects, even when these languages may not be present in the testing situation.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis , 2011. , p. 142
Studia Linguistica Upsaliensia, ISSN 1652-1366 ; 10
Keywords [en]
The bilingual lexicon
National Category
General Language Studies and Linguistics
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-143614ISBN: 978-91-554-7990-9 (print)OAI:, id: diva2:390708
Public defence
2011-03-04, Ihresalen, Humanististiskt centrum. Engelska parken. Uppsala universitet, Uppsala, 13:00 (English)