Chapter 10. Syntactic interference in bilingual naming during language switching

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Bilinguals need effective mechanisms to prevent interference of one language when involved in the other language. An unresolved issue in bilingualism concerns the cognitive mechanisms that regulate and control the use of different languages and prevent interference between them. In the present investigation we used event-related brain potentials (ERPs) in a tacit Go/noGo picture naming task in which a group of German/Spanish bilinguals and a group of monolinguals indicated the syntactic gender of an object presented in the center of a video monitor. For bilinguals, a language switch was introduced every eighteen trials. Critically, half of the stimuli presented had the same gender in Spanish and German (coincidence condition) and the other half not (non-coincidence condition). Bilinguals showed grammatical gender interference compared to monolingual performance. In addition, the Go/noGo – switching paradigm allowed a fine-grained investigation of the interaction between switching and gender interference by comparing switch-trials vs. non-switch trials in both gender conditions. Electrophysiological and behavioral data of the present study show that bilinguals could not easily avoid or suppress the gender representation of the non-target language completely, at least in mixed-language environments.


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