UBC Undergraduate Research

Interhemispheric Communication: How do first and second languages interact? Moore, Rylie


How is it that a bilingual individual can easily use each of their two languages without much confusion or mishap? This question has been widely studied by psychologists that are keen to better understand multilanguage control. The present study seeks to shed light on the controversy between two opposing models of dual language control. The inhibitory control model (Green, 1998) predicts that activation of a word in one language inhibits activation of words in the other language. The level of activation model (Grosjean, 1997) proposes that activation of the language in use is increased over the other. In two experiments, monolingual and bilingual (English-French) participants decided if a string of letters presented in the middle of a computer monitor was an English word or not. At the same time, a distractor word was presented to either the left or right of the letter string, and it was English or French and related in meaning or not. French semantically related distractor words provoked interference to lexical processing in bilinguals whereas English semantically related distractor words provided a benefit to lexical processing in monolinguals. The different response patterns to semantically related distractors in the two groups suggest that the English-word decision was inhibited by activation of French words in bilingual participants. This result is consistent with the prediction of the inhibitory control model.

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