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J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 2011 Jul;37(4):952-65. doi: 10.1037/a0023217.

Knowledge of a second language influences auditory word recognition in the native language.

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Department of Experimental Psychology, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium.


Many studies in bilingual visual word recognition have demonstrated that lexical access is not language selective. However, research on bilingual word recognition in the auditory modality has been scarce, and it has yielded mixed results with regard to the degree of this language nonselectivity. In the present study, we investigated whether listening to a second language (L2) is influenced by knowledge of the native language (L1) and, more important, whether listening to the L1 is also influenced by knowledge of an L2. Additionally, we investigated whether the listener's selectivity of lexical access is influenced by the speaker's L1 (and thus his or her accent). With this aim, Dutch-English bilinguals completed an English (Experiment 1) and a Dutch (Experiment 3) auditory lexical decision task. As a control, the English auditory lexical decision task was also completed by English monolinguals (Experiment 2). Targets were pronounced by a native Dutch speaker with English as the L2 (Experiments 1A, 2A, and 3A) or by a native English speaker with Dutch as the L2 (Experiments 1B, 2B, and 3B). In all experiments, Dutch-English bilinguals recognized interlingual homophones (e.g., lief [sweet]-leaf /li:f/) significantly slower than matched control words, whereas the English monolinguals showed no effect. These results indicate that (a) lexical access in bilingual auditory word recognition is not language selective in L2, nor in L1, and (b) language-specific subphonological cues do not annul cross-lingual interactions.

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