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LINGUIST List 16.1438

Thu May 05 2005

Diss: Psycholing: Festman: 'Lexical Production ...'

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        1.    Julia Festman, Lexical Production Phenomena as Evidence for Activation and Control Processes in Trilingual Lexical Retrieval

Message 1: Lexical Production Phenomena as Evidence for Activation and Control Processes in Trilingual Lexical Retrieval
Date: 02-May-2005
From: Julia Festman <jyfestmanhotmail.com>
Subject: Lexical Production Phenomena as Evidence for Activation and Control Processes in Trilingual Lexical Retrieval

Institution: Bar-Ilan University
Program: Department of English
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2004

Author: Julia Festman

Dissertation Title: Lexical Production Phenomena as Evidence for Activation and
Control Processes in Trilingual Lexical Retrieval

Linguistic Field(s): Psycholinguistics

Subject Language(s): English (ENG)
French (FRN)
German, Standard (GER)

Dissertation Director(s):
Joel Walters

Dissertation Abstract:

The overriding purpose was to examine the processing mechanisms of activation,
inhibition, and control in trilingual language production. Spontaneous language
production in 3 languages (German, English and French) of 57 trilinguals was
investigated in 4 studies.

Study 1 was used to explore speakers' experiences in executing language-choice
decisions, and in controlling language production in the language required in
the task ('target language') with regard to the other two languages not required
for task execution ('non-target languages'). In a verbal-production task a
variety of difficulties in making language choices emerged in verbal reports of
10 subjects, including problems of access to the target language, and strategies
employed to overcome lexical retrieval problems. In stronger languages, evidence
was found for speakers' abilities to alter and adjust activation states to
current processing needs, while in weaker languages, non-target languages led to

The objective of Study 2 was to examine spontaneous speech of 10 trilingual
subjects under conditions of language alternation and to analyze it for lexical
production phenomena. Subjects were more able to control performance in their
target language and the activation states of non-target languages during L1 and
L2 use than during L3-production.

The purpose of Study 3 was to examine TOT states and blockage in 3 languages.
Study 3 investigated whether, under frequent switching conditions, processes
such as access, competition, and selection in picture naming were exclusively
executed in the target language, or whether non-target languages were involved.
20 trilinguals were asked to report on language access, TOT states, and
cross-language blocks in a picture-naming task. The results suggest that
non-target languages are included in trilingual lexical processing until the
stage when the target word is selected.

In Study 4 the effects of increased processing load (due to frequent switching)
on control over language production were measured in terms of speed and accuracy
in retrieval. In a computerized picture-naming task, performance of 17 subjects
in 3 target languages was compared across two conditions (single language vs.
mixed blocks). Frequent switching across the 3 languages influenced control in
three ways: 1) lexical retrieval was slower in all languages, in particular in
L1; 2) the number of errors was significantly greater in L3; 3) performance was
less accurate.

In general, results demonstrated that the more a language was activated, the
faster and more accurate the performance, and the more frequent it was found to
cause interference or block production in weaker target languages. An extension
of Green's (1998) bilingual model of inhibition and control was suggested to
explain trilingual processing. The ability to control is claimed to be part of a
speaker's proficiency in each language, which includes the ability to activate
target languages and inhibit non-target languages.

This research further suggests that high processing load reduces the efficiency
of control relative to the activation level of the language: in stronger
languages the processing speed is affected, in weaker languages the accuracy of
production is influenced. Switching effects are attributed to the mechanisms of
inhibition. 1) inhibition of stronger non-target languages in order to function
as a target language is difficult to overcome. This results in slower processing
and increases substitution and interference errors. 2) The difficulty in
inhibiting stronger non-target languages results in more involvement of these
languages in processing in the weaker languages. When the higher demands of
control and resources cannot be met production in weaker languages yields more
errors during switching.

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