Center Papers

Morford, Kroll, Pinar & Wilkinson (2014)

Morford, J. P, Kroll, J. F., Piñar, P., and Wilkinson, E. (2014). Bilingual word recognition in deaf and hearing signers: Effects of proficiency and language dominance on cross-language activation. Second Language Research. ____________________________________________________________________________________________

Recent evidence demonstrates that American Sign Language (ASL) signs are active during print word recognition in deaf bilinguals who are highly proficient in both ASL and English. In the present study, we investigate whether signs are active during print word recognition in two groups of unbalanced bilinguals: deaf ASL-dominant and hearing English-dominant bilinguals. Participants judged the semantic relatedness of word pairs in English. Critically, a subset of both the semantically related and unrelated English word pairs had phonologically related translations in ASL, but participants were never shown any ASL signs during the experiment. Deaf ASL-dominant bilinguals (Experiment 1) were faster when semantically related English word pairs had similar form translations in ASL, but slower when semantically unrelated words had similar form translations in ASL, indicating that ASL signs are engaged during English print word recognition in these ASL-dominant signers. Hearing English-dominant bilinguals (Experiment 2) were also slower to respond to semantically unrelated English word pairs with similar form translations in ASL, but no facilitation effects were observed in this population. The results provide evidence that the interactive nature of lexical processing in bilinguals is impervious to language modality.