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Neurolinguistic contributions to understanding the bilingual mental lexicon

Meuter, Renata (2009) Neurolinguistic contributions to understanding the bilingual mental lexicon. In Pavlenko, Aneta (Ed.) The Bilingual Mental Lexicon: Interdisciplinary Approaches. Multilingual Matters, Bristol, England, United Kingdom, pp. 1-25.

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Abstract

Introduction

Many bilinguals will have had the experience of unintentionally reading something in a language other than the intended one (e.g. MUG to mean mosquito in Dutch rather than a receptacle for a hot drink, as one of the possible intended English meanings), of finding themselves blocked on a word for which many alternatives suggest themselves (but, somewhat annoyingly, not in the right language), of their accent changing when stressed or tired and, occasionally, of starting to speak in a language that is not understood by those around them. These instances where lexical access appears compromised and control over language behavior is reduced hint at the intricate structure of the bilingual lexical architecture and the complexity of the processes by which knowledge is accessed and retrieved. While bilinguals might tend to blame word finding and other language problems on their bilinguality, these difficulties per se are not unique to the bilingual population. However, what is unique, and yet far more common than is appreciated by monolinguals, is the cognitive architecture that subserves bilingual language processing. With bilingualism (and multilingualism) the rule rather than the exception (Grosjean, 1982), this architecture may well be the default structure of the language processing system. As such, it is critical that we understand more fully not only how the processing of more than one language is subserved by the brain, but also how this understanding furthers our knowledge of the cognitive architecture that encapsulates the bilingual mental lexicon.

The neurolinguistic approach to bilingualism focuses on determining the manner in which the two (or more) languages are stored in the brain and how they are differentially (or similarly) processed. The underlying assumption is that the acquisition of more than one language requires at the very least a change to or expansion of the existing lexicon, if not the formation of language-specific components, and this is likely to manifest in some way at the physiological level. There are many sources of information, ranging from data on bilingual aphasic patients (Paradis, 1977, 1985, 1997) to lateralization (Vaid, 1983; see Hull & Vaid, 2006, for a review), recordings of event-related potentials (ERPs) (e.g. Ardal et al., 1990; Phillips et al., 2006), and positron emission tomography (PET) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies of neurologically intact bilinguals (see Indefrey, 2006; Vaid & Hull, 2002, for reviews). Following the consideration of methodological issues and interpretative limitations that characterize these approaches, the chapter focuses on how the application of these approaches has furthered our understanding of (1) selectivity of bilingual lexical access, (2) distinctions between word types in the bilingual lexicon and (3) control processes that enable language selection.

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ID Code: 26673
Item Type: Book Chapter
Additional Information: Access to the accepted manuscript version is currently restricted pending permission from the publisher. For more information, please refer to the publishers website (see Official URL) or contact the author.
Keywords: Neurolinguistics, Bilingual, Mental lexicon
ISBN: 978-1-84769-124-8
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES (170000) > PSYCHOLOGY (170100) > Psychology not elsewhere classified (170199)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Psychology & Counselling
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2009 Aneta Pavlenko
Copyright Statement: All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced in any form or by any means without permission in writing from the publisher.
Deposited On: 10 Aug 2009 10:31
Last Modified: 29 Feb 2012 23:54

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