Poster D66, Friday, August 17, 4:45 – 6:30 pm, Room 2000AB

ERP evidence for implicit co-activation of English during recognition of American Sign Language

Brittany Lee1,2, Gabriela Meade1,2, Megan Mott1, Katherine J. Midgley1, Phillip J. Holcomb1, Karen Emmorey1;1San Diego State University, 2University of California, San Diego

This study investigated co-activation of English words during recognition of signs from American Sign Language (ASL) by deaf ASL-English bimodal bilinguals (N = 24). Participants viewed pairs of ASL signs and judged semantic relatedness. All of the prime-target sign pairs were form- unrelated in ASL. However, half of the semantically unrelated sign pairs had rhyming English translations (e.g., bar-star) and half did not (e.g., nurse-star). These rhyming English translations contained rimes with both orthographic and phonological overlap. EEG was recorded and time-locked to target video onset. Offline, participants completed a debriefing questionnaire to determine whether or not they had noticed the English rhyme manipulation. They also completed a translation task to ensure that the English translations they provided upheld the intended rhyme manipulation. Classic N400 and behavioral semantic priming effects were observed, with targets in semantically related sign pairs eliciting smaller amplitude N400s and faster RTs than targets in sign pairs that were not related in meaning. While no behavioral effects of English form-relatedness were observed, ERP evidence showed distinct patterns for participants who were aware of the form manipulation in English (N=10) and those who were not (N=14). Participants who reported awareness of the English rhymes showed an effect of form-relatedness between 700-900ms; targets in pairs with rhyming English translations elicited more positive-going ERPs compared to those in pairs with unrelated English translations. This pattern is consistent with a previous study of priming in deaf bimodal bilinguals with English words that had form-related ASL translations (Meade et al., 2017) and may be indicative of an explicit translation strategy. Participants who were unaware of the manipulation (N = 14) showed an earlier effect of English form-relatedness between 300- 500ms. However, the direction of this effect was reversed from what was observed by Meade et al. (2017) for English targets, as ASL targets in pairs with rhyming English translations (e.g., bar-star) elicited more negative-going ERPs than those in pairs with unrelated English translations (e.g., nurse-star). The apparent reversed N400 effect suggests that automatic co- activation of English word forms by ASL primes may inhibit or slow access to ASL targets rather than facilitate access to ASL signs. Thus, implicit co-activation of words and signs occurs bidirectionally, but accessing signs during word recognition appears to be more advantageous for deaf bimodal bilinguals than accessing words during sign processing. Implicit co-activation of the dominant language may aid processing of the less dominant language in both spoken language bilinguals and bimodal bilinguals, but this advantage does not appear to hold in the opposite direction.

Topic Area: Signed Language and Gesture

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