Fall is always full of conference-going. It’s an exciting time to share some of your latest findings and get feedback on projects that are in progress. It’s also very stimulating – cool new research happening everywhere, catching up with old friends and networking with others.
This year I presented some research at the annual meeting of the Psychonomic Society in New Orleans, LA, and at the California Meeting on Psycholinguistics at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
The project that I presented on at this meeting is an analysis that I have been working on with three research assistants in New York. We have been analyzing verbal fluency data from Spanish-English bilinguals in New York City. These bilinguals completed semantic and phonemic fluency tasks in both Spanish and English. We are analyzing their data in order to gain insight into their lexical organization and/or their lexical access. We are comparing their data to two control groups: English monolinguals and Spanish monolinguals (actually, native Spanish speakers with limited English proficiency) living in New York City. In order to characterize their performance, we are looking at number of words produced, average lexical frequency of the words they produced (in other words, are the words mostly highly frequent words in the language or do they also dig into their low-frequency vocabulary?), as well as the percent of words produced that are cognates. Cognates are words that overlap in both form and meaning in two languages, like bicycle and bicicleta in English and Spanish.
What we have found so far is that highly proficient Spanish-English bilinguals produced just as many words during the Spanish trials as Spanish controls and the words they produced were about the same level of word frequency. We included both early and late bilinguals, so this group included bilinguals who were born and raised in New York. However, there were some group differences for English trials. Early bilinguals showed the same patterns as English controls. However, late bilinguals produced fewer responses than English controls on the semantic fluency task and their responses were higher frequency (on average). Late bilinguals also produced a higher proportion of cognate on the phonemic task in English. Interestingly, the early bilinguals were in between the English controls and late bilinguals on all of these measures, suggesting more of a graded effect than a strict difference for late bilinguals.
We also investigated the characteristics of responses given over the course of the trial. Typically, responses in the beginning of the trial are high-frequency and responses decrease in frequency as the speaker searches deeper and deeper into their lexicon for exemplars. An odd pattern that we observed was that early bilinguals did not show this characteristic pattern on the phonemic fluency task. Their responses showed no relationship between frequency and response number (which was used to represent the time course). We are currently investigating why this pattern shows up for the early bilinguals by looking at some background variables that may differentiate them from late bilinguals or may produce interesting variability within the group.
You can find copies of the Psychonomics poster and the CAMP presentation on my ResearchGate profile: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Eve_Higby/research.