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1.  On the Time Course of Accessing Meaning in a Second Language: An Electrophysiological and Behavioral Investigation of Translation Recognition 
In 2 experiments, relatively proficient Chinese–English bilinguals decided whether Chinese words were the correct translations of English words. Critical trials were those on which incorrect translations were related in lexical form or meaning to the correct translation. In Experiment 1, behavioral interference was revealed for both distractor types, but event-related potentials (ERPs) revealed a different time course for the 2 conditions. Semantic distractors elicited effects primarily on the N400 and late positive component (LPC), with a smaller N400 and a smaller LPC over the posterior scalp but a larger LPC over the anterior scalp relative to unrelated controls. In contrast, translation form distractors elicited a larger P200 and a larger LPC than did unrelated controls. To determine whether the translation form effects were enabled by the relatively long, 750-ms stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA) between words, a 2nd ERP experiment was conducted using a shorter, 300-ms, SOA. The behavioral results revealed interference for both types of distractors, but the ERPs again revealed different loci for the 2 effects. Taken together, the data suggest that proficient bilinguals activate 1st-language translations of words in the 2nd language after they have accessed the meaning of those words. The implications of this pattern for claims about the nature of cross-language activation when bilinguals read in 1 or both languages are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3925769  PMID: 22686844
bilingualism; lexicon; translation; electrophysiology; ERPs
2.  When bilinguals choose a single word to speak: Electrophysiological evidence for inhibition of the native language 
Journal of memory and language  2012;67(1):10.1016/j.jml.2012.05.001.
Behavioral and event-related potential (ERP) measures are reported for a study in which relatively proficient Chinese-English bilinguals named identical pictures in each of their two languages. Production occurred only in Chinese (the first language, L1) or only in English (the second language, L2) in a given block with the order counterbalanced across participants. The repetition of pictures across blocks was expected to produce facilitation in the form of faster responses and more positive ERPs. However, we hypothesized that if both languages are activated when naming one language alone, there might be evidence of inhibition of the stronger L1 to enable naming in the weaker L2. Behavioral data revealed the dominance of Chinese relative to English, with overall faster and more accurate naming performance in L1 than L2. However, reaction times for naming in L1 after naming in L2 showed no repetition advantage and the ERP data showed greater negativity when pictures were named in L1 following L2. This greater negativity for repeated items suggests the presence of inhibition rather than facilitation alone. Critically, the asymmetric negativity associated with the L1 when it followed the L2 endured beyond the immediate switch of language, implying long-lasting inhibition of the L1. In contrast, when L2 naming followed L1, both behavioral and ERP evidence produced a facilitatory pattern, consistent with repetition priming. Taken together, the results support a model of bilingual lexical production in which candidates in both languages compete for selection, with inhibition of the more dominant L1 when planning speech in the less dominant L2. We discuss the implications for modeling the scope and time course of inhibitory processes.
PMCID: PMC3820915  PMID: 24222718
lexical selection; language production; inhibition; bilingualism
3.  Local and global inhibition in bilingual word production: fMRI evidence from Chinese-English bilinguals 
NeuroImage  2011;56(4):2300-2309.
The current study examined the neural correlates associated with local and global inhibitory processes used by bilinguals to resolve interference between competing responses. Two groups of participants completed both blocked and mixed picture naming tasks while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). One group first named a set of pictures in L1, and then named the same pictures in L2. The other group first named pictures in L2, and then in L1. After the blocked naming tasks, both groups performed a mixed language naming task (i.e., naming pictures in either language according to a cue). The comparison between the blocked and mixed naming tasks, collapsed across groups, was defined as the local switching effect, while the comparison between blocked naming in each language was defined as the global switching effect. Distinct patterns of neural activation were found for local inhibition as compared to global inhibition in bilingual word production. Specifically, the results suggest that the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and the supplementary motor area (SMA) play important roles in local inhibition, while the dorsal left frontal gyrus and parietal cortex are important for global inhibition.
PMCID: PMC3741343  PMID: 21440072
local inhibition; global inhibition; bilingualism; word production; fMRI
4.  The effects of prime visibility on ERP measures of masked priming 
In two experiments, the effect of the duration (40, 80 and 120 ms) of pattern masked prime words on subsequent target word processing was measured using event-related potentials. In Experiment 1, target words were either repetitions of the prior masked prime (car-CAR) or were another unrelated word (job-CAR). In Experiment 2, primes and targets were either semantically related (cap-HAT) or were unrelated (car-HAT). Unrelated target words produced larger N400s than did repeated (Exp 1) or semantically related (Exp 2) words across the different prime durations and these N400 priming effects tended to be smaller overall for semantic than repetition priming. Moreover, there was only a modest decline in the size of N400 repetition priming at the shortest prime durations, and there was no relationship between this N400 effect and a measure of prime categorization performance. However, the size of semantic priming at the shortest durations was relatively smaller than at longer durations and was correlated with prime categorization performance. The findings are discussed in the context of the functional significance of the N400 as well as a model that argues for different mechanisms during masked repetition and semantic priming.
PMCID: PMC3587782  PMID: 15922167
ERPs; N400; Masked priming; Semantic priming; Repetition priming
5.  Language selection in bilingual speech: Evidence for inhibitory processes 
Acta psychologica  2008;128(3):416-430.
Although bilinguals rarely make random errors of language when they speak, research on spoken production provides compelling evidence to suggest that both languages are active when only one language is spoken (e.g., Poulisse, 1999). Moreover, the parallel activation of the two languages appears to characterize the planning of speech for highly proficient bilinguals as well as second language learners. In this paper we first review the evidence for cross-language activity during single word production and then consider the two major alternative models of how the intended language is eventually selected. According to language-specific selection models, both languages may be active but bilinguals develop the ability to selectively attend to candidates in the intended language. The alternative model, that candidates from both languages compete for selection, requires that cross-language activity be modulated to allow selection to occur. On the latter view, the selection mechanism may require that candidates in the non-target language be inhibited. We consider the evidence for such an inhibitory mechanism in a series of recent behavioral and neuroimaging studies.
PMCID: PMC2585366  PMID: 18358449

Results 1-5 (5)