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Poster A63, Wednesday, November 8, 10:30 – 11:45 am, Harborview and Loch Raven Ballrooms

Effect of language context on accented words in bilinguals

Hia Datta1, Arielle Mayer1;1Molloy College

It is clear from existing research that individuals who experience more than one language (multilingual, here bilingual individuals) during their lives, process and organize them differently from those who experience only one language (monolingual individuals) (Fabbro, 2001, for review). We wanted to understand how bilingual individuals organize their phonological systems, and how that interacts with their lexicons in the two different languages. Researchers argue that bilinguals either organize their two phonological systems as independent or composite systems (Peltola et. al, 2012). The organization of phonological systems in the bilingual brain can impact how words in two languages are processed and accessed, especially when the language context varies. Recent studies have demonstrated that changing the language context may change the perception of speech sounds common to both languages (Peltola 2010, 2012; Garcia-Sierra et al. 2012) but only in dominant and not balanced bilinguals. Conversely, Winkler et. al (2003) reported that language context does not affect speech processing in bilingual individuals. We are investigating how language context influences processing of English- and Spanish-accented words in late dominant and early balanced Spanish-English speaking individuals. To explore this, we designed a pilot study using Event Related Potentials (ERPs) in a picture-word priming task. The priming task is expected to elicit a larger ERP (N400) when the word and the picture mismatch compared conditions in which they match. Three Spanish-English bilingual individuals were tested in both Spanish and English language contexts, each on a different day. The desired context was created through instructions, conversation and a 10-minute video in each language. 60 picture-word pairs were tested in three conditions: a) the matching condition in which the picture and the words matched completely (/ʃip/-/ʃip/) b) the accented-mismatch category: in which the picture was paired with a Spanish accented-word (/ʃip/-/tʃip/) and c) a complete mismatch condition in which the picture was paired with a totally mismatched word (/ʃip/-/zip/). We predicted that if language context influenced the participants, they would elicit smaller N400s in the accented-mismatch condition compared to the complete mismatch condition. This would be true in the Spanish context rather than in the English context, since in the Spanish context, the Spanish accented English words would be perceived as legitimate matches for the paired pictures (e.g., the word tʃip would be perceived as ʃip). Preliminary results indicated that only the balanced bilingual individual was influenced by context, and performed as predicted, eliciting a smaller N400 in the accented-mismatch condition in Spanish relative to the English context. In contrast, the two dominant Spanish-English bilinguals, whose stronger language was English, were insensitive to the accented-mismatches in either language context. We are in the process of collecting more data to investigate whether language context influences lexical processing in early balanced but not late dominant bilingual individuals.

Topic Area: Multilingualism

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