Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC San Diego

UC San Diego Electronic Theses and Dissertations bannerUC San Diego

(Not) Keeping another language in mind: Structural representations in bilinguals


Different languages have different sentence structures—i.e., rules and information that guide the assembly of words into sentences. How are the sentence structures from two languages with very different word orders organized in a bilingual’s mind? Chapter 1 aimed to disentangle whether structural representations are shared or separate-and-connected by using cumulative cross-language structural priming, which does not involve frequent language switching (unlike standard cross-language structural priming). Contra the rich evidence from standard cross-language structure priming, results from Chapter 1 suggest separate-and-connected representations of sentence structures from two languages with different word orders. By measuring production time of each word in a phrase using an extended picture-word interference paradigm, Chapter 2 examined whether bilinguals access sentence structures from both languages even when only speaking one. Results suggest language-specific structural activation for phrases that have different linear word order across languages, even when there are frequent language switches. Finally, using acceptability judgment and memory-recall paradigms, Chapter 3 investigated whether the word order information from a second language (L2) influences the representation and use of the first language (L1). Results suggest that L1 structural representations can change after L2 immersion, but not such that L1 sentences resemble L2 structures. Instead, the L2 immersion seems to be associated with “noisier” L1 representations. Together, this dissertation demonstrates the mostly separate structural representations of two languages that use different word orders.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View