[PS-3.49] One brain, one language, two codes? The curious case of Norwegian

Havas, V. & Vulchanova, M.

Norwegian University of Science and Technology

It is widely accepted that bilingualism provides a number of cognitive advantages (e.g. better executive control, attention, better problem-solving abilities, etc.). The effects of bilingualism on language competence are less clear, however. The evidence we have from research suggests that literacy skills acquired in the context of one language can transfer positively to another language. This is a question we set out to investigate in an experimental study of performance on tasks involving the two standard written languages in Norway, Bokmål and Nynorsk. The Norwegian language situation is characterized by multiple diglossia, both at the level of the written and at the level of the spoken language. Since Bokmål and Nynorsk are highly similar variants of Norwegian we also sought to study whether the two varieties are processed by the brain as two linguistic codes, as in the case of other bilingual language processing.
We used a cross-language primed lexical decision task where participants encountered target words and primes in Bokmål, Nynorsk and English. We found asymmetric cross-linguistic priming effect similar to what has been described in the literature in non-proficient L2 speakers. These results suggest that the two written varieties of Norwegian are processed as two linguistic codes.