Susan Bobb, Katie Von Holzen, Julien Mayor, Nivedita Mani, and Manuel Carreiras (2020)

Co-activation of the L2 during L1 auditory processing: An ERP cross-modal priming study

Brain and Language, 203:104739.

Several studies have shown that unbalanced bilinguals activate both of their languages simultaneously during L2 processing; however, evidence for L2 activation while participants are tested exclusively in their L1 has been more tenuous. Here, we investigate whether bilingual participants implicitly activate the label for a picture in their two languages, and whether labels activated in L2 can prime activation of cross-linguistically related L1 lexical targets. We tested highly proficient early Spanish-Basque bilinguals on an ERP cross-modal priming task conducted only in their L1, Spanish. Participants activated prime picture labels in both Spanish and Basque. More importantly, participants activated Basque translations of Spanish auditory targets, even in a Spanish experimental environment with no reference to Basque. Results provide strong evidence for non-selective bilingual lexical access, showing co-activation extending to lexical levels beyond phonological overlap. Our results add to the growing body of evidence for the interconnective nature of bilingual language activation.

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