Word Naming in the L1 and L2: A Dynamic Perspective on Automatization and the Degree of Semantic Involvement in Naming

Plat, R., Lowie, W. & de Bot, K., 17-Jan-2018, In : Frontiers in Psychology. 8, 14 p., 2256.

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Reaction time data have long been collected in order to gain insight into the underlying mechanisms involved in language processing. Means analyses often attempt to break down what factors relate to what portion of the total reaction time. From a dynamic systems theory perspective or an interaction dominant view of language processing, it is impossible to isolate discrete factors contributing to language processing, since these continually and interactively play a role. Non-linear analyses offer the tools to investigate the underlying process of language use in time, without having to isolate discrete factors. Patterns of variability in reaction time data may disclose the relative contribution of automatic (grapheme-to-phoneme conversion) processing and attention-demanding (semantic) processing. The presence of a fractal structure in the variability of a reaction time series indicates automaticity in the mental structures contributing to a task. A decorrelated pattern of variability will indicate a higher degree of attention-demanding processing. A focus on variability patterns allows us to examine the relative contribution of automatic and attention-demanding processing when a speaker is using the mother tongue (L1) or a second language (L2). A word naming task conducted in the L1 (Dutch) and L2 (English) shows L1 word processing to rely more on automatic spelling-to-sound conversion than L2 word processing. A word naming task with a semantic categorization subtask showed more reliance on attention-demanding semantic processing when using the L2. A comparison to L1 English data shows this was not only due to the amount of language use or language dominance, but also to the difference in orthographic depth between Dutch and English. An important implication of this finding is that when the same task is used to test and compare different languages, one cannot straightforwardly assume the same cognitive sub processes are involved to an equal degree using the same task in different languages.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2256
Number of pages14
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 17-Jan-2018



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