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L1 influences on L2 revisited.

Sunday, October 02nd,   2011 [11:30 - 13:10]

SY_29. L1 influences on L2 revisited

Román, P. E. & Kotz, S.

Max Planck Institute, Leipzig, Germany

Since the early models on word production (Kroll and Stewart, 1994) and word recognition (Dijkstra & van Heuven, 1998), there has been much evidence on the influence that a first language (L1) exerts on second language (L2) acquisition. Although high and low proficient bilinguals have been shown to activate both languages, learners seem to be more prone to suffer the influence from their first language, whether facilitating as in cognate effects or interfering as in the case of the homograph effect. Such differences are reflected not only at the behavioral (e.g. Chen & Ho, 1986) but also at a cerebral level (e.g. Perani et al., 1998) and at every language processing level: syntax (van Hell & Tokowicz, 2010); grammar (Bialystok & Miller, 2000), and lexicon (Poulisse & Boungaerts, 1994). The need to trigger additional mechanisms to control selection of the correct representations seem to have consequences on general cognitive processing (Colzato et al., 2008). At present, research takes major steps forward exploring different aspects that modulate the complexity of this relation between languages and its consequences. The aim of the symposium will be, therefore, to offer an integrative view on the influence of L1 on L2 that includes these new exciting impacts on bilingualism. Thus, Kroll et al. will focus on the time course of lexical L1 influence on L2 across scripts. The contributions by Dussias and Van Hell & Tokowicz address how syntactical differences between L1 and L2 modulate processing of uncertainties or violations, respectively, in bilinguals with different backgrounds. Kotz will review neural correlates of the influence of non-linguistic functions such as rhythm and attention and their relation to linguistic functions. Finally, the contribution of Bajo et al. shows evidence on the executive control mechanism acting to prevent interference between languages and its dependence on the bilingual experience.



SY_29.1 - Does the first language influence second language processing once learners are proficient bilinguals? Behavioral and ERP evidence on cross-language lexical activation

Kroll, J. F. 1 , Misra, M. 1 & Guo, T. 2

1 Pennsylvania State University, State College, USA
2 Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China

When individuals acquire a second language (L2) past early childhood, the established first language (L1) may be used as a basis on which to mediate access to the meaning of new L2 words. According to the Revised Hierarchical Model (Kroll & Stewart, 1994), the mediation of L2 words via their L1 translation characterizes the performance at lower levels of proficiency, but not once individuals become highly proficient and appear able to conceptually process the meaning of L2 words directly. Past studies have challenged this view in two ways, suggesting first that L1 mediation is not required at all (e.g., Brysbaert & Duyck, 2010), even at the earliest stages of L2 learning, and second, that proficient bilinguals may continue to access the L1 translation equivalent even well after they have acquired a high degree of proficiency in the L2 (e.g., Morford et al., 2011; Thierry & Wu, 2007). We present two sets of behavioral and ERP studies that examine this issue with highly proficient Chinese-English and Spanish-English bilinguals performing a translation recognition task. By manipulating the relation of distractor words in L1 to target words in L2, we could determine the degree to which the L1 actively influences processing in the L2. By comparing behavioral results and ERPs, we could identify the time course over which these effects unfold. The comparison of two different relatively proficient bilingual groups also enabled us to assess the role of same vs. different-script language in mediating the persisting effects of the L1 on the L2. The results suggest that the L1 translation equivalent is indeed available to even highly proficient L2 speakers but the time course of these effects suggests that access to the meaning of L2 words does not depend on it.

SY_29.2 - Cross-language transfer and morphosyntactic processing: Event-related potential and behavioral evidence in Dutch-English and English-Spanish bilinguals

Van Hell, J. 1 & Tokowicz, N. 2

1 Department of Psychology, Pennsylvania State University, State College, USA
2 Department of Psychology and the Learning Research and Development Center, University of Pittsburg, Pittsburg, USA

Does knowledge of syntactic structures in the first language affect the learning and processing of syntactic structures in the second language? The Competition Model predicts that transfer of syntactic structures from L1 to L2 depends on cross-language similarity (e.g., MacWhinney, 2008; Tokowicz & MacWhinney, 2005). The competition model predicts that in case of similar structures, but not in dissimilar structures, L2 learners will be highly sensitive to syntactic violations at an early point in L2 learning, and that acquisition of structures that are unique to the second language will depend on the availability and reliability of relevant cues. These predictions were tested in two studies with Dutch learners of L2 English and English learners of L2 Spanish. The syntactic structures under study were similar across two languages (English verb inflection for native Dutch speakers, Spanish demonstrative determiner-noun number agreement for native English speakers), unique (Spanish determiner-noun gender agreement for native English speakers) or dissimilar (English present progressive for native Dutch speakers, Spanish definite determiner-noun number agreement for native English speakers). Dutch-English relatively proficient bilinguals showed typical native-like ERP signatures of morphosyntactic processing on all structures (irrespective of L1-L2 similarity). Unlike some previous findings in beginning learners, both the Dutch-English and the English-Spanish beginning learners’ ERP patterns showed ERP sensitivity to violations of constructions that are similar and different in the two languages; the English-Spanish beginning learners showed no sensitivity to the construction that is unique to Spanish. We will discuss these findings in relation to the (scarce but emergent) literature on ERP patterns in morphosyntactic processing in beginning L2 learners, cross-language transfer, and the Competition Model.

SY_29.3 - The role of the L1 in explaining observed L1/L2 differences during syntactic processing

Dussias, P.

Pennsylvania State University, State College, USA

When we read sentences in our second language, we face many uncertainties about how the people or objects referred to in the text are connected to one another. This is so because when our eyes move along the printed line, the information needed to establish correct dependencies between word strings is not yet available. So what does the second language (L2) reader do under these conditions of uncertainty? Because L2 speakers who are relatively proficient in two or more languages have access to the grammar and lexicon of each language when they comprehend written sentences, one critical question concerns whether the specific semantic and syntactic sub-processes engaged during L2 language comprehension are different when monolingual speakers and second language speakers process input in the target language. In this talk, I will examine how differences in the linguistic systems of a bilingual’s two languages might influence the syntactic representations that adult L2 learners compute during comprehension. I will also discuss how the bilinguals’ characteristics and specific linguistic experience may determine their performance in reading comprehension tasks.

SY_29.4 - Timing, rhythm, and syntax in tonal and sentential processing: L1 and L2 evidence

Kotz, S.

Neurocognition of Rhythm in Communication Group, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany

Neural cortical correlates of linguistic functions such as syntax and phonology are well supported in the neuroscience literature. However, the influence of non-linguistic functions such as timing, rhythm, and attention, well established in music research, are currently sparsely considered in speech and language research. This is surprising as latter functions play a critical role in first and second language acquisition. In this context, I will focus on basal ganglia and cerebellar circuitries which are involved in beat perception, timing, attention, memory, language, and motor behaviour (see Kotz, Schwartze, & Schmidt-Kassow, 2009; Kotz and Schwartze, 2010) in L1. Furthermore, I will present a concept of how linguistic and non-linguistic functions interface and will support this concept with recent event-related potential (ERP) data from L2 speakers that belong to different rhythmic L1 and L2 classes (e.g. Schmidt-Kassow et al., 2011).

SY_29.5 - Retrieval induced forgetting and language control

Román, P. 1 , Gómez-Ariza, C. 2 & Bajo, M. T. 3

1 Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences. Leipzig
2 Univerisdad de Jaén
3 Universidad de Granada

Bilinguals activate their two languages even in contexts where just one of them is required. Inhibition has been proposed as a candidate mechanism for language selection; suppressing the lexical representations of the irrelevant language facilitates access to the relevant one. The relation of language selection to a more general inhibitory control mechanism has also been the focus of interest (Green, 1998) and some researchers have built a bridge between retrieval induced forgetting (RIF) and language inhibition (Levy et al., 2007). In this study, we explore the neural substrates of RIF in language control. To do so, we register ERPs during retrieval practice in a bilingual picture naming task. As expected, results showed differences in ERPs during picture naming as a function of the number of the retrieval practice in L2. Moreover, source analyses on such differences reveal that the neural activity is originated in regions that have been associated to the RIF effect in neuroimaging studies. We discuss the data in the context of theories of bilingual language selection and control.

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