Volume 5, Issue 2
  • ISSN 1879-9264
  • E-ISSN: 1879-9272
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There are two competing theories of bilingual lexical access — the language-selective access theory, which proposes that only the lexical items from the intended language are activated for selection during speech planning and comprehension (e.g., Costa, Santesteban, & Ivanova, 2006), and the language non-selective access theory, which proposes that both languages receive activation and compete for production (e.g., Kroll, Bobb, & Wodniecka, 2006). This study examines whether language-specific syntax — the syntactic positioning of a target word in a determiner phrase — can act as a language cue to modulate cross-linguistic activation and whether inhibition resolves competition (e.g., Green, 1998). In two cross-modal priming (+/−Rep) tasks, Spanish-English bilinguals were presented English sentences that were linearly congruent (Canonical Dative and of-Genitive) or incongruent (Dative Double Object and ’s-Genitive) with Spanish syntax and were prompted to make a lexical decision on a Spanish translation of the target word or a control word. The RTs revealed that participants were significantly slower in the incongruent condition (−Rep) than the congruent condition (−Rep) suggesting that language-specific syntax is a language cue that modulates cross-linguistic activation. When participants were prompted to repeat the sentences aloud (+Rep), the translation equivalent was expected to compete with the target word for production, yet no significant difference of RTs was found and the role of inhibition in speech production was not confirmed. Taken together, these findings support the language non-selective access model and further refine current theories of cross-linguistic activation and inhibitory control during bilingual language comprehension and production.


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