On being bilingual
Marc Brysbaert
Ghent University
Bilingualism is everywhere
• There are at least 3000 languages for 195
independent countries.
• Bilingualism is especially common among
economically non-dominant groups.
• The “world language” usually follows
economic dominance, because these people
cannot be motivated to learn another
language.
So, what do we know about
bilingualism?
• I’ll start with a model summarising our
knowledge some 15 years ago.
• Then I’ll show that much of what we thought
to be true turns out to be wrong ...
• ... at least to me
Kroll & Stewart’s (1994) revised
hierarchical model
Mental
lexicon
L1
Mental lexion
L2
Concepts
Kroll & Stewart’s (1994) revised
hierarchical model
• Four ideas
1. Distinction between the L1 lexicon and the L2
lexicon.
2. We have a mechanism of language control
(selective access).
3. Asymmetries in the connections (in particular
the idea of direct connections between L2 words
and their L1 translations).
4. Conceptual knowledge is language-independent.
Spivey & Marian (Psychological
Science, 1999)
• Started from the finding that when people
hear a word, initially all words with the same
sounds become activated (e.g., when people
hear “beaker”, initially the word “beetle” is
acitvated as well).
• Shown with the visual world paradigm (e.g.,
Allopenna et al., 1998)
speaker
beaker
beetle
carriage
Eye movements are monitored to know
what the participant is looking at.
“First, look at the centre of the screen.”
“Now, pick up the beaker ...”
“... And put it above the circle.”
Participants more often look at the beetle upon
hearing “beaker” than at the other two objects
(Allopenna et al., 1998).
Spivey & Marian (Psychological
Science, 1999)
12 late Russian-English fluent bilinguals;
speech processing
“Poloji marku.”
[“Pick up the stamp.”]
marker
marku
Dijkstra, Timmermans, & Schriefers (JML, 2000)
- Dutch-English bilinguals (unbalanced)
- 3 types of homographs:
* list
(HF English; LF Dutch [trick])
* brand (LF English; HF Dutch [fire])
* hark (LF English; LF Dutch [rake])
- Dutch go/no-go task
homographs Dutch control words
HFE-LFD
(list)
RT
% no-go
868
26%
630
4%
LFE-HFD
(brand)
RT
% no-go
589
0%
558
0%
LFE-LFD
(hark)
RT
% no-go
763
22%
706
6%
“On being blinded by your other language”
Van Hell & Dijkstra (2002)
• Cognates: Words in two languages with the
same meaning and a similar form
• E.g. tomaat – tomate – tomato
• Lexical decision in Dutch
• Cognates vs. control words
– Dutch – English cognates (appel – apple)
– Dutch – French cognates (citroen – citron)
Van Hell & Dijkstra
Ghent
Lexicon
Psychology
students
Students
French
Psychology
students
Dutch-English cognate
499
489
559
Dutch-French cognate
519
520
585
Control word
529
541
595
English cognate effect
30*
52**
36*
French cognate effect
10
21*
10
Van Assche et al. (2009)
• Can the cognate effect also be found in sentence
reading?
• Sentences:
– “Zijn jongste zoontje wou zich als een piloot verkleden
voor carnaval.”
[His youngest son wanted to dress up as a pilote for the
carnaval party.]
– “Zijn jongste zoontje wou zich als een konijn verkleden
voor carnaval.”
[His youngest son wanted to dress up as a rabbit for the
carnaval party.]
Why are we not able to control the
languages that are activated?
• A lot of information becomes activated
automatically (balistically) as soon as we
see a word.
• For instance, in addition to orthographic
information, phonological information is
activated as well.
Phonology in silent reading
• Silent reading without moving the lips is a very
recent skill (early 20th century?)
– In 383 Aurelius Augustine expressed his surprise when he met
the bishop of Milan and saw that he could read silently. “When
he read”, said Augustine, “his eyes scanned the page and his
heart sought out the meaning, but his voice was silent and his
tongue was still.” (as cited in Manguel, 1996, p. 42).
• Saenger (1997): Silent reading became possible
only after spaces were inserted between the
words (started from the 8th century; before,
there was scriptio continua)
Phonology in silent reading
• Beginning readers need to sound out the words;
speed of reading acquisition depends on the
transparency of the letter-sound
correspondences.
• Sound still plays a major role in current-day
expert silent reading:
– Inner voice (difficult texts)
– Tongue twister effect (“the purpose of the play was to
please the brave prince”)
– TTE exists in all languages (also with logographic
writings)
Phonology in silent reading
• Long time discussion whether phonological coding
occurred after the word recognition (addressed
phonology) or as part of the recognition process
itself (assembled phonology).
• Now quite good evidence that phonology is
assembled prelexically and together with the
orthographic code activates lexical representations
(i.e., weak phonological model; Ferrand, 1995;
Grainger, Kiyonaga, & Holcomb, 2006; Perea &
Carreiras, 2008; Rastle & Brysbaert, 2006)
Phonology in silent reading:
Masked priming
• Strongest evidence for the contribution of
assembled phonology comes from masked
priming with pseudohomophones
• E.g., Rastle & Brysbaert (2006)
– Target: USE
– Primes: yuice vs. durke (SOA = 58 ms)
– Task: Lexical decision
yuice
USE
###########
Faster lexical decision time to the
target USE after the prime yuice than
after the prime durke.
Because the primes are nonwords,
recoding must be prelexical.
Phonology in silent reading:
Masked priming
• Evidence that phonological priming is automatic
(Brysbaert, 2001; Drieghe & Brysbaert, 2002; Xu
& Perfetti, 1999).
• If so, you ought to find evidence for crosslanguage priming.
Brysbaert et al. (JEP:HPP, 1999, 2002)
• French
target words preceded by “Dutch” primes
• 2 types of primes
* pseudohom :
* graph. contr.:
soer - SOURD
siard - SOURD
•Perceptual identification task
• Task
as seen by the participants :
“On each trial a French word in capitals is flashed in the
middle of the screen between a forward and a backward
mask consisting of #######. Your task is to guess the word.”
###########
BRAIN
brane
Nothing was said about the primes (they were not
noticed). Participants were not informed about the fact
that some primes were homophonic if they were read
aloud according to the Dutch spelling-sound
correspondences.
Dutch-French stimuli
FrenchDutch
French
mono
DutchFrench
homophonic
(soer-SOURD)
24
41
30
graphemic
(siard-SOURD)
33
34
23
phon. priming effect
-9
+7
+7
Summary selective access
and separated lexicons
• Strong evidence against selective access
(also in speech production).
• Also increasing evidence against separate
lexicons.
Semantic access from L2
• Is it really the case that we have to
understand the meaning of L2 words via L1
translation?
• How long is this the case? (developmental
aspect)
• Duyck & Brysbaert (2004) : what about the
translation of number names?
Why numbers?
• There is a very straightforward prediction you
can make : Whenever numbers activate their
meaning you find a number magnitude effect
1. No magnitude effect in simple number naming
2. Magnitude effects in number memory and
number comparison
Brysbaert (1995)
Semantic medition in
number translation
• Duyck & Brysbaert (2004, experiment 1)
– Dutch-French bilinguals who:
1. Name L1 number words in L1
2. Name Arabic numbers in L1
3. Translate L2 number words in L1 (backward)
Digits
Words
The bilinguals were too proficient
• Duyck & Brysbaert (2004, experiment 3)
– Participants learned new, artificial (Estonian)
number words
1. Name L1 number words in L1
2. Name Arabic numbers in L1
3. Translate L2 number words in L1 (backward)
Summary semantic activation
from L2 words
• Connections between L2 words and
meaning are established very rapidly
when there is a clear mapping from the
words to the concepts.
• Now also being shown for other types of
stimuli.
• Also growing evidence that the type of
teaching plays a role (word-list focused
vs. meaning focused).
Are concepts language independent?
• We know that language independence is not true
for episodic memory.
• We know that language independence is not true
for short term retention (Sahlin et al., 2005)
– 120 prolific English-Spanish bilinguals
– List of 120 words heard at a speed of 1 w per 3 s; half
English, half Spanish
– Recognition test: old vs. new
– 85% in English-English, 88% in Spanish-Spanish
– 13% in Spanish-English, and 17% in English-Spanish
Are concepts language independent?
• But could language independence be true for
semantic knowledge:
Conceptmaison = concepthouse = concepthuis
• We don’t know yet, but there are indications
that semantic memory may be much more
language dependent that we currently
assume
– E.g., translation subtleties: a large book <> a large
sister
Are concepts language independent?
• Blot et al. (2003): Brain storming in L1 and L2
• “What uses could people make of an extra
thumb (next to the little finger)?”
• English-Spanish and Spanish-English bilinguals
• Ideas generated in L1 = 25
• Ideas generated in L2 = 20
• After the session, change of language
• Extra ideas in L1, but not in L2
Conclusion
• Go and read
– Brysbaert, M., & Duyck, W. (in press). Is it time to
leave behind the revised hierarchical model of
bilingual language processing after 15 years of
service? Bilingualism: Language and Cognition.
– Available at biblio.ugent.be
• Not all doom and gloom
– Bilingualism increases your ability to switch tasks.
– Bilingualism may postpone Alzheimer by 5-10 yrs.
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Visual word recognition in bilinguals