Cross-linguistic modulation of reading processes in bilingual adults

Tainturier , M. . & Payne, J.

School of Psychology and Bilingualism Research Centre, Bangor University, UK

According to the 'Grain Size Accommodation' hypothesis (Lallier and Carreiras, 2017), learning to read in two languages differing in orthographic consistency leads to a cross-linguistic modulation of reading processes. Here, we tested the hypothesis that the stronger phonological processing abilities acquired through learning highly consistent Welsh may transfer to English pseudo-word (PW) reading. One-hundred young adults, including 50 English monolinguals and 50 Welsh-English highly proficient early bilinguals participated in a speeded reading aloud task. The stimuli were 76 English words (½ short, ½ long) and 76 English-like PWs (½ short, ½ long) presented in pseudo-randomised mixed blocks. Overall, we replicated the classical effects of lexicality (word latencies < pw latencies) and the interaction between length and lexicality (length effects for PWs only). Consistent with our hypothesis, these effects interacted with language group: Even though word reading latencies were highly similar in monolinguals and bilinguals, bilinguals read pseudo-words faster, particularly long ones. This study indicates that early bilingual reading experience can have long-lasting effects on reading performance. More specifically, it suggests that learning to read in a consistent orthography such as Welsh in addition to English gives bilingual adults a lasting advantage in English literacy tasks strongly relying on phonological processing.