Western Undergraduate Psychology Journal


This study examined whether bilinguals activate phonological representations from their first language when reading in their second language. Specifically, the effect of interlingual homophones in Vietnamese-English bilinguals with unequal proficiencies in their respective languages was examined. Participants were completely fluent in English (could speak, read, and write it) with limited abilities in Vietnamese (could speak it, but not read or write it). Therefore, for each interlingual homophone, these unbalanced bilinguals were expected to have a phonological representation for both languages but an orthographic representation for English alone. Consequences of this relationship were examined in a lexical decision task. The critical stimuli were Vietnamese-English interlingual homophones and their matched English control words. Decision latencies and error data for the critical stimuli were recorded and analyzed. A facilitative interlingual homophone effect was predicted but only a small inhibitory effect was found in the error data. These results indicate that the lack of a second orthographic representation may reduce the inhibitory homophone effect compared to that seen in English monolinguals and that a facilitative homophone effect may only be found when there are many homophone mates. The results also indicate that weaker (Vietnamese) representations may have little influence on dominant language (English) processing.

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