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Article

The role of native-language phonology in the auditory word identification and visual word recognition of Russian-English bilinguals

Journal of Psycholinguistic Research. 2009. Vol. 38. No. 2. P. 93-110.
Shafiro V., Kharkhurin A. V.

Does native language phonology influence visual word processing in a second language? This question was investigated in two experiments with two groups of Russian-English bilinguals, differing in their English experience, and a monolingual English control group. Experiment 1 tested visual word recognition following semantic categorization of words containing four phonological vowel contrasts (/i/−/u/,/I/−/∧/,/i/−/I/,/ε/−/\ae//i/−/u/,/I/−/∧/,/i/−/I/,/ε/−/\ae/). Experiment 2 assessed auditory identification accuracy of words containing these four contrasts. Both bilingual groups demonstrated reduced accuracy in auditory identification of two English vowel contrasts absent in their native phonology (/i/−/I/,/ε/−/\ae//i/−/I/,/ε/−/\ae/). For late- bilinguals, auditory identification difficulty was accompanied by poor visual word recognition for one difficult contrast (/i/-/I/). Bilinguals’ visual word recognition moderately correlated with their auditory identification of difficult contrasts. These results indicate that native language phonology can play a role in visual processing of second language words. However, this effect may be considerably constrained by orthographic systems of specific languages.