Are phonological representations in bilinguals language specific? An ERP study on interlingual homophones


  • Carrasco Haydee
  • Midgley Katherine
  • Frenck-Mestre Cheryl


  • Phonological recoding
  • Bilingual
  • Lexical access
  • ERPs
  • Homophones

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Event-related potentials (ERPs) served to investigate whether phonological representations from both the first (L1) and second (L2) language of bilinguals are activated during silent reading of L2 words. French-English late bilinguals and control monolingual English speakers read Interlingual homophones (e.g., pool in English which has substantial phonological overlap with the French word “poule”, meaning 'chicken') and matched control words. Results showed a reduction in N400 amplitude in response to interlingual homophones in comparison to control words for bilinguals, but not for English monolinguals. The reduced N400 response to homophones in bilinguals suggests facilitation of word recognition. These results suggest parallel activation of both L1 and L2 phonological representations when reading silently in the L2. These findings point to a language nonspecific model for bilinguals at the phonological level of representation.

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