Lexical Access Reveals Consequences of Age of Acquisition, L2 Proficiency and Cross-language Interaction for Early Bilinguals’ L2 (Data and Analysis Scripts)

Published: 20 June 2019| Version 2 | DOI: 10.17632/ybw78yfjw6.2


The relationship between age of acquisition (AoA) and second language (L2) outcomes has been well-documented for late bilinguals, but this relationship has been studied less robustly for early bilinguals. In the current study, we investigated AoA differences in L2 lexical access for early bilinguals who acquired their L2 before age nine. We examined to what extent AoA differences reflect cumulative language experience (AoA and L2 proficiency) as predicted by the frequency lag hypothesis or differences in the degree of L1 competition during L2 production as predicted by the competition for selection account. Thirty English monolinguals, 28 early simultaneous bilinguals (AoA: 0-4) and 25 early sequential (AoA: 5-9) Spanish-English bilinguals named pictures of low-frequency words in English. Monolinguals had fewer Tips-of-the-Tongue (TOTs) and more correct retrievals than the two bilingual groups. Early simultaneous bilinguals had fewer TOTs and more correct retrievals than early sequential bilinguals. Continuous analyses showed that early AoA and higher L2 proficiency predicted more correct retrievals. Spanish translation knowledge interacted with proficiency, such that bilinguals with lower L2 proficiency experienced more TOTs for words that were known in both languages relative to words that were only known in English, whereas bilinguals with higher L2 proficiency experienced fewer TOTs when they knew words in both languages. Results suggest that AoA and proficiency are the best predictors of L2 lexical access when retrieval is efficient. However, when retrieval is more effortful, bilinguals are prone to L1 influence. Whether L1 influence facilitates or inhibits retrieval depends on language proficiency. The data and R script for analysis are both available here.