Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

Pervasive Benefits of Preparation in Language Switching

Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

Pervasive Benefits of Preparation in Language Switching

Article excerpt

Published online: 26 September 2014

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2014

Abstract Many theories of bilingual language production assume that when bilinguals process words in their first language, representations from their second language are coactivated. Verhoef, Roelofs, and Chwilla (2009) proposed an alternative account, assuming that the activation of second language representations is highly limited during first language production. Using a cued language-switching task, Verhoef et al. showed that allowing participants to prepare their responses failed to facilitate first language production in some contexts. Verhoef et al. argued that this reflected a lack of coactivation of second language representations in these contexts. We report two experiments with different bilingual populations that failed to confirm the predictions of this account: Preparation consistently facilitated first language production in all contexts. This suggests that in the cued switch paradigm, both first language and second language representations are consistently activated during first language production.

Keywords Task switching · Executive control · Speech production · Psycholinguistics · Inhibition

Most theories of bilingual language production assume that when bilinguals process words in one language, representations from the other language are coactivated (see, e.g., Kroll, Bobb, Misra, & Guo, 2008, for a review). However, on the basis of patterns of performance in an experimental languageswitching paradigm, Verhoef, Roelofs, and Chwilla (2009) claimed that during first language (L1) processing, second language (L2) representations are not typically activated. We report results from two experiments that disconfirm the predictions of this account, supporting the coactivation of L1 and L2 representations during L1 production.

Verhoef et al. (2009) built on previous studies of bilingual language production using the cued language-switching paradigm, in which language cues (e.g., colored squares or national flags) prompt bilinguals to alternate naming targets (e.g., digits or pictures) in their L1 and L2 (Meuter & Allport, 1999). The resulting mixed-language blocks include switch trials, in which the language of response differs from the language spoken on the previous trial, and repeat or stay trials, in which the language of response matches that spoken on the preceding trial. Parallel to results from other domains (Monsell, 2003), comparison of response times (RTs) and error rates across these trial types reliably shows a switch cost,suchthatswitchtrialshavelongerRTsandhighererror rates than repeat trials. Bilingual language-switch costs are commonly attributed to the difficulty of inhibiting the previously used language when a switch is required (Green, 1998; but see Bobb & Wodniecka, 2013,forareviewofarguments against this account).

Verhoef et al. (2009) examined how preparation influences performance in this paradigm. Dutch-English bilinguals performed cued switching with either a short (500-ms) or a long (1,250-ms) interval between the language cue and stimulus presentation. Parallel to the findings from cued switching tasks in other domains (Kiesel et al., 2010), preparation tended to facilitate responses. Interestingly, Verhoef et al. found no benefit of preparation for L1 repeat trials, which resulted in a significant three-way interaction of stimulus type, trial type, and preparation length. The participants showed asymmetric switch costs (larger in L1 Dutch than in L2 English) with a short preparation interval, but symmetric switch costs with a long preparation interval. Because preparation did not affect the RTs for L1 repeat trials (which were shorter than L1 switch trials), the difference between L1 repeat and switch trials decreased with preparation. In contrast, the difference between L2 repeat and switch trials remained constant, making L1 switch costs equivalent to those in the L2 at the longer preparation interval. …

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