Lexical organization in bilinguals and L2 learners - A study of lexical access and cognate representation
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The current study investigates how bilinguals and second language learners’ mental lexicons are organized. Studying how learners access their mental lexicon provides information on how cognates (words with similar or identical form) are represented in the mental lexicon, and further whether the mental lexicons are overlapped or unconnected. Through a lexical decision experiment, reaction times to cognates and noncognates of corresponding frequencies were compared. We tested whether accessing a word in one lexicon activated its counterpart in the other (nonselective access), or only activated the representation in the used language (selective access). Nonselective access suggests that cognates have one shared representation across languages, and selective access proposes that cognates have two separate representations (one for each language). The results showed no differences in reaction times, suggesting evidence for lexical access being selective, that cognates have two representations in the mind, and that the mental lexicons are unconnected. There were no differences in reaction times between the bilingual and L2 learner group, indicating that proficient L2 learners and bilinguals access their mental lexicons comparably, suggesting similar lexical organization.