Second-language word recognition in noise: Interdependent neuromodulatory effects of semantic context and crosslinguistic interactions driven by word form similarity

Sara Guediche*, Angela de Bruin, Cesar Caballero-Gaudes, Martijn Baart, Arthur Samuel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Abstract

Spoken language comprehension is a fundamental component of our cognitive skills. We are quite proficient at deciphering words from the auditory input despite the fact that the speech we hear is often masked by noise such as background babble originating from talkers other than the one we are attending to. To perceive spoken language as intended, we rely on prior linguistic knowledge and context. Prior knowledge includes all sounds and words that are familiar to a listener and depends on linguistic experience. For bilinguals, the phonetic and lexical repertoire encompasses two languages, and the degree of overlap between word forms across languages affects the degree to which they influence one another during auditory word recognition. To support spoken word recognition, listeners often rely on semantic information (i.e., the words we hear are usually related in a meaningful way). Although the number of multilinguals across the globe is increasing, little is known about how crosslinguistic effects (i.e., word overlap) interact with semantic context and affect the flexible neural systems that support accurate word recognition. The current multi-echo functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study addresses this question by examining how prime-target word pair semantic relationships interact with the target word's form similarity (cognate status) to the translation equivalent in the dominant language (L1) during accurate word recognition of a non-dominant (L2) language. We tested 26 early-proficient Spanish-Basque (L1-L2) bilinguals. When L2 targets matching L1 translation-equivalent phonological word forms were preceded by unrelated semantic contexts that drive lexical competition, a flexible language control (fronto-parietal-subcortical) network was upregulated, whereas when they were preceded by related semantic contexts that reduce lexical competition, it was downregulated. We conclude that an interplay between semantic and crosslinguistic effects regulates flexible control mechanisms of speech processing to facilitate L2 word recognition, in noise.
Original languageEnglish
Article number118168
JournalNeuroimage
Volume237
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • Bilingualism
  • Crosslinguistic effects
  • Language control
  • Speech in noise
  • fMRI

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