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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The effect of dialect on bilingual lexical processing and representation Szakay, Anita


Psycholinguistic studies on bilingualism generally investigate how linguistic information is shared between a listener's first language (L1) and second language (L2) at the conceptual level and in the lexicon. At the same time speech perception studies examine how social information affects language processing and representation. This dissertation brings these two lines of research together and demonstrates that the L1 and L2 are connected through a social category activation link, in addition to previously proposed conceptual and lexical links. In particular, I show that the activation of ethnicity operates under a shared system across the L1 and L2 during both immediate speech processing and long-term abstract representations. This claim is supported by sensitivity and reaction time results from two priming experiments. In a novel cross-language / cross-dialect paradigm, English (L1) - Maori (L2) bilingual New Zealanders participated in a short-term and a long-term auditory lexical decision task (72 and 45 subjects respectively), where critical prime and target pairs were made up of English-to-Maori and Maori-to-English translation equivalents. Half of the English target words were pronounced by standard New Zealand Pakeha English speakers and half by Maori English speakers, thus creating nine test conditions: four bilingual conditions, four English-only conditions, and a within-Maori repetition priming condition. Each critical English word contained one of four sociophonetic variables: theta, final /z/, and the GOOSE or GOAT vowels. The results reveal a stronger connection between Maori and Maori English representations than between Maori and Pakeha English representations both in short-term processing and long-term mental representations. I argue for the existence of an ethnicity activation link between the L1 and L2. The strength of this link varies based on the directionality and time-course of activation, the sociophonetic variable in the word, and the listener's previous experience with the social category.

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