How do highly proficient bilinguals control their lexicalization process? Inhibitory and language-specific selection mechanisms are both functional

  • Costa A
  • Santesteban M
  • Ivanova I
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Abstract

The authors report 4 experiments exploring the language-switching performance of highly proficient bilinguals in a picture-naming task. In Experiment 1, they tested the impact of language similarity and age of 2nd language acquisition on the language-switching performance of highly proficient bilinguals. Experiments 2, 3, and 4 assessed the performance of highly proficient bilinguals in language-switching contexts involving (a) the 2nd language (L2) and the L3 of the bilinguals, (b) the L3 and the L4, and (c) the L1 and a recently learned new language. Highly proficient bilinguals showed symmetrical switching costs regardless of the age at which the L2 was learned and of the similarities of the 2 languages and asymmetrical switching costs when 1 of the languages involved in the switching task was very weak (an L4 or a recently learned language). The theoretical implications of these results for the attentional mechanisms used by highly proficient bilinguals to control their lexicalization process are discussed.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Highly proficient bilingualism
  • Language production
  • Language switching
  • Lexical access

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