The influence of proficiency and language combination on bilingual lexical access
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The present study examines the nature of bilingual lexical access using category fluency across five language combinations using 109 healthy speakers of Hindi-English, Kannada-English, Mandarin-English, Spanish-English, and Turkish-English. Participants completed a category fluency task in each of their languages in three main categories (animals, clothing, food), each with two subcategories, as well as a language use questionnaire assessing their proficiency in each of their languages. Multivariate analyses of variance revealed that the average number of correct items named in the category fluency task across the three main categories varied across the different groups for English items only. A series of repeated-measures analyses of covariance revealed that the exposure component that had been extracted from the language use questionnaire using a principal component analysis significantly affected the average number of items named across the three main categories. When the effect of exposure was controlled, the effect of language combination was no longer significant. A regression analysis showed that the relative amount of exposure participants had to each of their languages predicted participants’ relative performance in each language. Additional multivariate analyses of variance found significant differences in the number of correct items named in each main category and subcategory in both English and participants’ other language based on language combination. Overall, these results demonstrate the effects of particular language combinations on bilingual lexical access and provide important insights into the role of proficiency on access.