Is speech perception in bilinguals always nonselective?
In an earlier post, we saw that bilingual language production is a dynamic process which can operate in different language activation states depending on a number of factors (see here). These can be linguistic but also psycholinguistic and sociolinguistic such as who you are talking to, whether you are using the “right language” to talk about the subject in question, how well you know the language you are speaking, how recently you have spoken the other language, the presence of speakers of the other language(s), and so on.
Is this also true of language perception? Researchers have spent considerable time examining the way bilinguals listen to, or read, their languages, and for many years they came to the conclusion that perceptual processing is nonselective, that is, that all the bilingual’s languages are involved in the processes that take place during the acts of listening to, or reading, just one language. But is this always the case?
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Francois Grosjean, Ph.D.
François Grosjean, Ph.D., is Emeritus Professor of psycholinguistics, Neuchâtel University, Switzerland. His domains of interest are the perception, comprehension and production of language, be it speech or sign language, in monolinguals and bilinguals. He also has interests in biculturalism, applied linguistics, aphasia, sign language, and natural language processing. He is better known for his work on bilingualism in which he has investigated the holistic view of bilingualism, language mode, the complementarity principle, the processing of code-switching and borrowing, as well as the bilingualism of the Deaf.
He is the author of numerous articles and of four books on bilingualism: Life with Two Languages(Harvard University Press, 1982), Studying Bilinguals (Oxford University Press, 2008), Bilingual: Life and Reality (Harvard University Press, 2010), and The Psycholinguistics of Bilingualism (with Ping Li; Wiley-Blackwell, 2013).
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Harvard University Press