Bilingual Children's L1 and L2 Word Frequency Effects: The Role of Individual Differences
Bilingualism continues to grow among the world’s population. Nevertheless, most research studies on language processing have focused on monolingual individuals, leaving questions about how language processing unfolds in bilingual individuals. Here, we investigated how individual differences in bilingual experience, indexed by current L2 exposure, impact eye movement measures of reading fluency, indexed by word frequency effects, in an understudied population: bilingual children. Prior eye movement research involving bilingual younger adults (aged 18 to 30) has reported a trade-off in L1 and L2 word frequency effects with greater levels of current L2 exposure (Whitford & Titone, 2012, 2017). We wanted to examine whether this trade-off also extends to bilingual children. Using linear mixed-effects models, we re-analyzed Whitford and Joanisse’s (2018) data involving English-French bilingual children (aged 7 to 12). We had three main findings. First, we found that word frequency effects were larger in the L2 than in the L1 across both early and late stages of reading (gaze duration, total reading time). Second, we found that greater levels of current L2 exposure facilitated L2 reading performance, but hindered L1 reading performance (irrespective of word frequency) across both reading stages (gaze duration, total reading time). Third, we found that for late-stage reading only (total reading time), greater levels of current L2 exposure resulted in smaller L2 word frequency effects, but had no significant impact on L1 word frequency effects. This finding suggests that bilingual children may be temporarily immune to the trade-off of L1/L2 word frequency effects previously observed among bilingual younger adults, as individual differences in current L2 exposure influenced L2 word frequency effects only. This study has implications for models of bilingual word processing, including BIA+ (Dijkstra & Van Heuven, 2002) and the weaker links hypothesis (Gollan, Montoya, Cera & Sandoval, 2008; Gollan et al., 2011).
Cognitive psychology|Developmental psychology|Language
Portillo, Astrid Michelle, "Bilingual Children's L1 and L2 Word Frequency Effects: The Role of Individual Differences" (2020). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI28000032.