Word processing comparison in native Spanish monolinguals and Spanish-English bilinguals. An ERP study

Word processing comparison in native Spanish monolinguals and Spanish-English bilinguals. An ERP study

First Author: Alioth Guerrero-Aranda -- Institute of Neuroscience, University of Guadalajara
Additional authors/chairs: 
Andrés A. González-Garrido; Fabiola R. Gómez-Velázquez; R.M. Joshi
Keywords: ERP, Bilingualism, Lexical Decision, L1/L2 transfer, transparent orthography
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose: To evaluate the event-related brain potential (ERP) responses elicited by word processing in mono and bilingual Mexican individuals on languages with different levels of orthographic transparency (English and Spanish), while performing a lexical decision task with simultaneous recording of the EEG.

Methods: The sample consisted of 30 right-handed male native Spanish speakers. All the participants had normal IQ (mean age of 15 years) and were divided into 2 groups: 15 monolinguals and 15 highly proficient bilinguals. ERPs were recorded while participants performed a lexical decision task on visually presented words and pseudowords. Both groups completed the task in both Spanish and English languages.

Results: Behavioral findings showed no differences between groups. However, significant effects of lexicality and language were observed, with reaction times significantly longer for pseudowords, and while performing the trials in Spanish. Electrophysiological findings showed significantly greater voltage amplitudes for N170 and N325 components in bilinguals, as well as strong lateralization of the components to the right hemisphere.

Conclusions: The results suggest that L2 acquisition modifies the neurofunctional correlates of word processing. This probably reflects greater recruitment of processing resources from homologous brain contralateral areas. Moreover, orthographic transparency seems to play an important role in influencing the processing of words according to the strength of their representation in memory.