Retrieving L2 word stress from orthography: Evidence from word naming and cross-modal priming


Ilha Desterro




Abstract This study aims at showing how L1 word stress affects L2 word naming for cognates and non-cognates in two lexical stress languages, Brazilian Portuguese (BP, L1) and American English (AE, L2). Based on the bilingualism literature, there are indications that the access to the lexicon is non-selective, thus, cognate words would have a facilitation effect in recognition in L2 and in L1. Our hypothesis is that co-defining features of words, such as word stress, would be more activated by cognate word pairs in the target language of use. In a first experiment with low frequency cognate words of English and Portuguese (Post da Silveira, et. al. 2014), we noticed that the low frequency caused word stress dominance in bilinguals to emerge in production. We hypothesize that words of higher frequency in the lexicons will provide more lexical effects of word stress than low frequency words. In order to test this hypothesis, in Experiment 1 of this study, Brazilian Portuguese (BP)-American English (AE) bilinguals named a mixed list of disyllabic moderate frequency words in L1 (Portuguese) and L2 (English). In Experiment 2, BP-AE bilinguals named English (L2) disyllabic target words presented simultaneously with auditory Portuguese (L1) disyllabic primes. Voice-onset-times, which will be called Reaction Times along the task, were measured. Our results led to the conclusion that word stress is actually a co-defining lexical feature, because it is directly affected by lexical frequency. We also noticed that word stress has a task-dependent role to play in bilingual word naming. Given the findings of this study, we advocate that word stress must be incorporated in bilingual models of lexical production, lexical perception and reading aloud.

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