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Psycholinguistic, cognitive, and neural implications of bimodal bilingualism*



Bimodal bilinguals, fluent in a signed and a spoken language, exhibit a unique form of bilingualism because their two languages access distinct sensory-motor systems for comprehension and production. Differences between unimodal and bimodal bilinguals have implications for how the brain is organized to control, process, and represent two languages. Evidence from code-blending (simultaneous production of a word and a sign) indicates that the production system can access two lexical representations without cost, and the comprehension system must be able to simultaneously integrate lexical information from two languages. Further, evidence of cross-language activation in bimodal bilinguals indicates the necessity of links between languages at the lexical or semantic level. Finally, the bimodal bilingual brain differs from the unimodal bilingual brain with respect to the degree and extent of neural overlap for the two languages, with less overlap for bimodal bilinguals.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Karen Emmorey Laboratory for Language and Cognitive Neuroscience 6495 Alvarado Road suite 200 San Diego CA 92120 USA


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This research was supported by NIH grant HD047736 to Karen Emmorey and SDSU, Rubicon grant 446-10-022 from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research to Marcel Giezen, and NIH grant DC011492 to Tamar Gollan. We would like to thank Jennifer Petrich for her tremendous help in running many of the studies discussed in this paper, and all our research participants.



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