Tracking Bilingual Activation in the Processing and Production of Spanish Stress
Martinez García, María Teresa
University of Kansas
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Language bias and proficiency have been proposed to modulate cross-language activation, but it is unclear how they operate and whether they interact. This study sheds light on these questions by investigating whether stress differences between Spanish-English cognates (material, final-syllable stress in Spanish) affect how first-language(L1)-Spanish second-language-(L2)-English and L1-English L2-Spanish bilinguals recognize Spanish words (materia ‘subject/matter,’ second-syllable stress in Spanish). In two eye-tracking experiments and a production experiment, participants heard or produced trisyllabic Spanish targets with second-syllable stress (materia) and saw four orthographic words, including the target and a Spanish-English cognate competitor. Cross-language activation was examined by manipulating the English cognate stress; in comprehension, English cognates with the same stress as the Spanish target (target: materia, competitor: material) were predicted to cause more cross-language interference than non-cognates (e.g., target: asado ‘roasted,’ competitor: asador ‘rotisserie’) and than English cognates with a different stress (target: litera ‘bunk bed,’ competitor: literal;); in production, cognates with a different stress were instead predicted to cause cross-language interference. Experiment 1 was in Spanish; Experiment 2 was in Spanish and English, and participants were assigned to Spanish-bias or English-bias condition; Experiment 3 was a production version of Experiment 2. Second-language (L2) proficiency was assessed with cloze tests and LexTALEs. In Experiment 1, neither group showed interference from English stress. In Experiment 2, only the L1-English bilinguals showed interference from English stress, and they did so only in the English-bias condition, with this effect decreasing with increasing Spanish proficiency. In Experiment 3, both groups showed interference from English stress, but this effect was modulated by language bias only for the L1-English group. These findings indicate that cross-language interference is more likely to emerge when the unintended language is the L1, when listeners are biased towards hearing the L1, and when L2 proficiency in the intended language is lower.
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