PIRE fellow Manuel Pulido-Azpíroz presents at the 11th International Symposium on Bilingualism (ISB11).
Studies on the processing of second language (L2) collocations (e.g., “set the table”) have reported faster RTs in collocational over unrelated word pairs, but also more efficient processing of L1-L2 congruent collocations (word-by-word equivalents) relative to incongruent ones (e.g., Wolter & Gyllstad, 2011). While previous studies have assumed an advantage of congruent collocations in processing, we explore the alternative hypothesis that differences are due to the effect of L1 interference. Using ERPs, we investigated the effect of implicit L1 activation during a lexical decision task. Spanish-English bilinguals were presented with 656 Verb+Noun sequences in their L2 (80 congruent, 80 incongruent collocations, 80 unrelated, 88 fillers; 328 non-words). To investigate the effect of L1 interference, increased L1 activation was induced through the presence of a cognate noun in 50% of collocations. Results for the bilingual group (N=18) showed congruency-based differences. Repeated measures ANOVAs revealed an effect of congruency in the 340-450 (p<0.05) and 500-600 ms windows (p<0.01). Bonferroni post hoc tests revealed a significantly different negative-going modulation in incongruent collocations peaking at around 550 ms in averaged left frontal electrodes relative to the congruent (p=0.015) and the unrelated conditions (p=0.016). However, congruent collocations that contained cognates also presented a negative peak and were non-significantly different from cognates in incongruent collocations. These results support previous studies that found that when cognates are presented in a sentence facilitation decreases or disappears (e.g., Schwartz & Kroll, 2006). The data suggest that implicit L1 activation during processing of incongruent collocations results in recruitment of inhibition mechanisms within the 500-600ms window.