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Lexical selection in bilinguals : proactive or reactive adjustment to language choice Bélanger, Carole

Abstract

This study was designed to test the claim that there are two components to bilingual language control (Green, 1998). The first is proactive control by which the language processing system prepares for an anticipated shift in language. The second is reactive language control, a mechanism by which the language processing system completes its preparation for a language shift on the basis of either an external or an internal stimulus. In an experimental study of language switching, eighteen balanced English-French bilinguals named sequences of two pictures in either the same language or in different languages. Proactive control was examined by manipulating foreknowledge o f whether the pictures would be named in the same language or in different languages. Reactive control was examined by manipulating the semantic relatedness between the two pictures in a pair. A positive semantic priming effect was observed when languages were repeated but no negative priming effect was observed when languages were switched. Thus, the reactive inhibition hypothesis was not supported. As expected, a time cost was associated with switching languages but this unexpectedly occurred only when foreknowledge was available. Consistent with the notion of proactive processing response latencies on both switch and repetition trials were faster when foreknowledge was available. The overall pattern of results is consistent with models which postulate control components which operate at both a global level and a local level. Examination o f the results in terms of the Language Mode Continuum framework (Grosjean, 2001) suggest that bilinguals can strategically adopt a preparatory state that especially facilitates language switching.

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