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Cross-Linguistic Influence in the Bilingual Mental Lexicon: Evidence of Cognate Effects in the Phonetic Production and Processing of a Vowel Contrast


The present study examines cognate effects in the phonetic production and processing of the Catalan back mid-vowel contrast (/o/-/ɔ/) by 24 early and highly proficient Spanish-Catalan bilinguals in Majorca (Spain). Participants completed a picture-naming task and a forced-choice lexical decision task in which they were presented with either words (e.g., /bɔsk/ "forest") or non-words based on real words, but with the alternate mid-vowel pair in stressed position ((*)/bosk/). The same cognate and non-cognate lexical items were included in the production and lexical decision experiments. The results indicate that even though these early bilinguals maintained the back mid-vowel contrast in their productions, they had great difficulties identifying non-words and real words based on the identity of the Catalan mid-vowel. The analyses revealed language dominance and cognate effects: Spanish-dominants exhibited higher error rates than Catalan-dominants, and production and lexical decision accuracy were also affected by cognate status. The present study contributes to the discussion of the organization of early bilinguals' dominant and non-dominant sound systems, and proposes that exemplar theoretic approaches can be extended to include bilingual lexical connections that account for the interactions between the phonetic and lexical levels of early bilingual individuals.

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