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J Mem Lang. 2012 Jul 1;67(1):199-210. Epub 2012 May 5.

Bilingual processing of ASL-English code-blends: The consequences of accessing two lexical representations simultaneously.

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San Diego State University, Lab for Language and Cognitive Neuroscience, 6495 Alvarado Road, Suite 200, San Diego, CA 92120, USA, .


Bilinguals who are fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) and English often produce code-blends - simultaneously articulating a sign and a word while conversing with other ASL-English bilinguals. To investigate the cognitive mechanisms underlying code-blend processing, we compared picture-naming times (Experiment 1) and semantic categorization times (Experiment 2) for code-blends versus ASL signs and English words produced alone. In production, code-blending did not slow lexical retrieval for ASL and actually facilitated access to low-frequency signs. However, code-blending delayed speech production because bimodal bilinguals synchronized English and ASL lexical onsets. In comprehension, code-blending speeded access to both languages. Bimodal bilinguals' ability to produce code-blends without any cost to ASL implies that the language system either has (or can develop) a mechanism for switching off competition to allow simultaneous production of close competitors. Code-blend facilitation effects during comprehension likely reflect cross-linguistic (and cross-modal) integration at the phonological and/or semantic levels. The absence of any consistent processing costs for code-blending illustrates a surprising limitation on dual-task costs and may explain why bimodal bilinguals code-blend more often than they code-switch.

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