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Research into second language (L2) reading is an exponentially growing field. Yet, it still has a relatively short supply of comparable, ecologically valid data from readers representing a variety of first languages (L1). This article addresses this need by presenting a new data resource called MECO L2 (Multilingual Eye Movements Corpus), a rich behavioral eye-tracking record of text reading in English as an L2 among 543 university student speakers of 12 different L1s. MECO L2 includes a test battery of component skills of reading and allows for a comparison of the participants’ reading performance in their L1 and L2. This data resource enables innovative large-scale cross-sample analyses of predictors of L2 reading fluency and comprehension. We first introduce the design and structure of the MECO L2 resource, along with reliability estimates and basic descriptive analyses. Then, we illustrate the utility of MECO L2 by quantifying contributions of four sources to variability in L2 reading proficiency proposed in prior literature: reading fluency and comprehension in L1, proficiency in L2 component skills of reading, extralinguistic factors, and the L1 of the readers. Major findings included (a) a fundamental contrast between the determinants of L2 reading fluency versus comprehension accuracy, and (b) high within-participant consistency in the real-time strategy of reading in L1 and L2. We conclude by reviewing the implications of these findings to theories of L2 acquisition and outline further directions in which the new data resource may support L2 reading research.
Applied linguistic work claims that multilinguals’ non-native languages interfere with one another based on similarities in cognitive factors like proficiency or age of acquisition. Two experiments explored how trilinguals regulate control of native- and non-native-language words. Experiment 1 tested 46 Dutch–English–French trilinguals in a monitoring task. Participants decided if phonemes were present in the target language name of a picture, phonemes of non-target language translations resulted in longer response times and more false alarms compared to phonemes not present in any translation (Colomé, 2001). The second language (English) interfered more than the first (Dutch) when trilinguals monitored in their third language (French). In Experiment 2, 95 bilinguals learned an artificial language to explore the possibility that the language from which a bilingual learns a third language provides practice managing known-language interference. Language of instruction modulated results, suggesting that learning conditions may reduce interference effects previously attributed to cognitive factors.
Second language (L2) speakers produce speech more slowly than first language (L1) speakers. This may be due to a delay in lexical retrieval, but it is also possible that the delay is situated at later stages. This study used delayed picture naming to test whether late production stages (leading up to articulation) are slower in L2 than in L1. Dutch–English unbalanced bilinguals performed a regular and a delayed picture naming task in English and Dutch. Monolingual English controls performed these tasks in English. Speakers were slower when naming pictures in L2 during regular picture naming but not in delayed naming. Reaction time costs of using L2 did not vary with phonological complexity, but there was a larger L2 cost in accuracy with more complex words. We conclude that the very last stages prior to articulation are not significantly slower when bilinguals name pictures in their L2.
Bilingual ambiguity can arise when a word form is shared across languages but the meanings are different in each language (e.g., the word pie means foot in Spanish). The way bilinguals process this ambiguity informs us about general bilingual language processing. Do bilinguals activate both meanings of an ambiguous word or is only the meaning in the contextually relevant language activated? The current review presents studies that have explored cross-language ambiguity and the factors influencing bilingual ambiguity resolution. It examines how interactions of language context, frequency, task demands, and/or individual differences such as proficiency and executive control influence cross-language ambiguity effects. The review concludes that the bilingual language system is organized in an integrated lexicon that is accessed language-nonselectively but that it is important to take into account all of the possibly interacting factors.
Do cross-lingual interactions occur even with structures of different word order in different languages of bilinguals? Or could the latter provide immunity to interference of the contrasting characteristics of the other language? To answer this question, we examined the reported speech production (utterances reporting what just happened; e.g., Holly asked what Eric ate) of two groups of proficient, unbalanced bilinguals with varying similarity between their native (L1-Spanish/L1-Dutch) and second language (L2-English). The results showed that both groups of bilinguals produced word order errors when formulating indirect What-questions in L2, regardless of how similar the L1 was to the L2 in that respect. Our findings suggest that in the case of reported speech production in the examined bilingual groups, cross-linguistic syntactic differences by themselves suffice to induce language interference, and that the degree of similarity between the L1 and the L2 does not seem to modulate the magnitude of this effect.
Monolingual listeners continuously predict upcoming information. Here, we tested whether predictive language processing occurs to the same extent when bilinguals listen to their native language vs. a non-native language. Additionally, we tested whether bilinguals use prediction to the same extent as monolinguals. Dutch–English bilinguals and English monolinguals listened to constraining and neutral sentences in Dutch (bilinguals only) and in English, and viewed target and distractor pictures on a display while their eye movements were measured. There was a bias of fixations towards the target object in the constraining condition, relative to the neutral condition, before information from the target word could affect fixations. This prediction effect occurred to the same extent in native processing by bilinguals and monolinguals, but also in non-native processing. This indicates that unbalanced, proficient bilinguals can quickly use semantic information during listening to predict upcoming referents to the same extent in both of their languages.
This study examined how noun reading by bilinguals is influenced by orthographic similarity with their translation equivalents in another language. Eye movements of Dutch–English bilinguals reading an entire novel in L1 and L2 were analyzed.
In L2, we found a facilitatory effect of orthographic overlap. Additional facilitation for identical cognates was found for later eye movement measures. This shows that the complex, semantic context of a novel does not eliminate cross-lingual activation in natural reading.
In L1 we detected non-identical cognate facilitation for first fixation durations of longer nouns. Identical cognate facilitation was found on total reading times for high frequent nouns. This study is the first to show cognate facilitation in L1 reading of narrative text. This shows that even when reading a novel in the mother tongue, lexical access is not restricted to the target language.
In an ongoing debate, bilingual research currently discusses whether bilingualism enhances non-linguistic executive control. The goal of this study was to investigate the influence of language-switching experience, rather than language proficiency, on this bilingual executive control advantage. We compared the performance of unbalanced bilinguals, balanced non-switching, and balanced switching bilinguals on two executive control tasks, i.e. a flanker and a Simon task. We found that the balanced switching bilinguals outperformed both other groups in terms of executive control performance, whereas the unbalanced and balanced non-switching bilinguals did not differ. These findings indicate that language-switching experience, rather than high second-language proficiency, is the key determinant of the bilingual advantage in cognitive control processes related to interference resolution.
The current study investigated the effects of bilingualism on the clinical manifestation of Alzheimer's disease (AD) in a European sample of patients. We assessed all incoming AD patients in two university hospitals within a specified timeframe. Sixty-nine monolinguals and 65 bilinguals diagnosed with probable AD were compared for time of clinical AD manifestation and diagnosis. The influence of other potentially interacting variables was also examined. Results indicated a significant delay for bilinguals of 4.6 years in manifestation and 4.8 years in diagnosis. Our study therefore strengthens the claim that bilingualism contributes to cognitive reserve and postpones the symptoms of dementia.
Many studies on bilingual language processing have shown that lexical access is
not selective with respect to language. These studies typically used nouns as
word stimuli. The aim of the present study was to extend the previous findings
on noun processing to verb processing. In the first experiment, Dutch-English
bilinguals performed a lexical decision task in their second language and were
faster to recognize cognate verbs (e.g., Dutch-English
geven-give) presented out of context than control words. This
verb cognate facilitation effect was not modulated by verb tense. In a second
experiment, cognates and controls were presented in sentence contexts while eye
movements were recorded. In contrast to the strong cognate facilitation effects
on early and later reading time measures for nouns found in earlier studies,
cognate facilitation was only observed on a later reading time measure (i.e.,
go-past time). An interpretation of the results within current models of
bilingual language processing and lexical organization is provided.
This chapter discusses the interactions between two of the most important human cognitive functions: memory and language. First, the concept of working memory is introduced, along with a brief summary of the evolutions that working memory theory has undergone in the last decades. The second part of the chapter focuses on the role of (verbal) working memory in language acquisition and processing. It is argued that working memory, and especially the ability to temporarily represent serial-order information, is crucially involved in both native and foreign word learning, and perhaps also in sentence and text comprehension. The third and final part of the chapter explores the other direction of the interaction, by questioning whether language processing can influence working memory functioning. This question is addressed with recent behavioral and neurological evidence for a general executive control advantage in bilinguals, which makes a strong case for the trainability of some aspects of working memory.
Until now, research on bilingual auditory word recognition has been scarce, and although most studies agree that lexical access is language-nonselective, there is less consensus with respect to the influence of potentially constraining factors. The present study investigated the influence of three possible constraints. We tested whether language nonselectivity is restricted by (a) a sentence context in a second language (L2), (b) the semantic constraint of the sentence, and (c) the native language of the speaker. Dutch–English bilinguals completed an English auditory lexical decision task on the last word of low- and high-constraining sentences. Sentences were pronounced by a native Dutch speaker with English as the L2, or by a native English speaker with Dutch as the L2. Interlingual homophones (e.g., lief “sweet” – leaf /liːf/) were always recognized more slowly than control words. The semantic constraint of the sentence and the native accent of the speaker modulated, but did not eliminate interlingual homophone effects. These results are discussed within language-nonselective models of lexical access in bilingual auditory word recognition.
In this reply to Kroll, Van Hell, Tokowicz and Green (this issue) we present an analysis of the citations made to the Revised Hierarchical Model (RHM). This gives us a quantitative summary of the current use of the RHM, showing that RHM has been used equally often to guide research in word recognition as in word production. We also question the claim that Brysbaert and Duyck's (this issue) focus on word recognition leaves RHM unscathed for the explanation of word production and the interactions between lexical and conceptual representations. For these research topics too, we feel that more progress will be made by adapting computational monolingual models to the bilingual situation rather than by trying to understand the findings from the RHM framework.
The Revised Hierarchical Model (RHM) of bilingual language processing dominates current thinking on bilingual language processing. Recently, basic tenets of the model have been called into question. First, there is little evidence for separate lexicons. Second, there is little evidence for language selective access. Third, the inclusion of excitatory connections between translation equivalents at the lexical level is likely to impede word recognition. Fourth, the connections between L2 words and their meanings are stronger than proposed in RHM. And finally, there is good evidence to make a distinction between language-dependent and language-independent semantic features. It is argued that the Revised Hierarchical Model cannot easily be adapted to incorporate these challenges and that a more fruitful way forward is to start from existing computational models of monolingual language processing and see how they can be adapted for bilingual input and output, as has been done in the Bilingual Interactive Activation model.
It is not easy to comment on Dijkstra and Van Heuven's model because there are many more aspects we agree with than aspects we feel uncomfortable about. Indeed, the BIA model has played an enormous role in showing us how bilingual visual word recognition can be achieved without recurrence to the intuitively appealing – but wrong – ideas of separate, language-specific lexicons and language-selective access. As in many other research areas, a working computational model has been much more influential in convincing critical readers (and researchers) than any series of empirical findings. The BIA+ model inherits this strength and, hopefully, in the coming years will be implemented in enough detail to exceed its predecessor. In the rest of this comment, we would like to put a cautionary note behind the temporal delay assumption introduced in the target article and provide some additional corroborating evidence for the lack of non-linguistic effects on early processes in the identification system.
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