Cross-language activation in children's speech production: Evidence from second language learners, bilinguals, and trilinguals

Gregory J. Poarch, Adriana Van Hell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

65 Scopus citations

Abstract

In five experiments, we examined cross-language activation during speech production in various groups of bilinguals and trilinguals who differed in nonnative language proficiency, language learning background, and age. In Experiments 1, 2, 3, and 5, German 5- to 8-year-old second language learners of English, German-English bilinguals, German-English-Language X trilinguals, and adult German-English bilinguals, respectively, named pictures in German and in English; in Experiment 4, 6- to 8-year-old German monolinguals named pictures in German. In both language conditions, cognate status was manipulated. We found that the bidirectional cognate facilitation effect was significant in all groups except the German monolinguals (Experiment 4) and, critically, the child second language learners (Experiment 1) in whom only native language (L1) German had an effect on second language (L2) English. The findings demonstrate how the integration of languages into a child's system follows a developmental path that, at lower levels of proficiency, allows only limited cross-language activation. The results are interpreted against the backdrop of the developing language systems of the children both for early second language learners and for early bi- and trilinguals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)419-438
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of experimental child psychology
Volume111
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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