Behavioral and neural correlates of cross-linguistic transfer (CLT) effects were studied at the word level, in a pair of linguistically distant languages. Twelve adult Persian speakers were tested on an overt picture-naming task in L2, during event-related fMRI scanning after an intensive computerized French lexical-learning program including cognates, clangs and non-cognate-non-clangs.
In distant language pairs, naming in L2 is effortful and demanding. Thus, it is less automatic, and must recruit more neural resources for lexical retrieval, and articulatory processing; it also requires more attention and cognitive control, even in cases where there is phonological overlap. Activation observed with different word types reflects the interaction of language and other cognitive systems including executive control and working memory circuits, even with phonologically similar and highly consolidated words. Moreover, phonologically similar words (cognates and clangs) seem to involve the implicit memory processing, whereas phonologically distant words (non-cognate-non-clangs) seem to require explicit memory.