Katie v Holzen and Nivedita Mani (2012)

Language Nonselective Lexical Access in Bilingual Toddlers

Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 113(4):569-586.

We examined how words from bilingual toddlers’ second language (L2) primed recognition of related target words in their first lan- guage (L1). On critical trials, prime–target word pairs were either (a) phonologically related, with L2 primes overlapped phonologically with L1 target words [e.g., slide (L2 prime)–Kleid (L1 target, ‘‘dress’’)], or (b) phonologically related through translation, with L1 translations of L2 primes rhymed with the L1 target words [e.g., leg (L2 prime, L1 translation, ‘‘Bein’’)–Stein (L1 target, ‘‘stone’’). Evidence of facilitated target recognition in the phonological priming condition suggests language nonselective access but not necessarily lexical access. However, a late interference effect on target recognition in the phonological priming through translation condition provides evidence for language nonselective lexical access: The L2 prime (leg) could influence L1 target recognition (Stein) in this condition only if both the L2 prime (leg) and its L1 translation (‘‘Bein’’) were concurrently activated. In addition, age- and gender-matched monolingual toddler controls showed no difference between conditions, providing further evidence that the results with bilingual toddlers were driven by cross-language activation. The current study, therefore, presents the first-ever evidence of cross-talk between the two languages of bilinguals even as they begin to acquire fluency in their second language.