Bilingual frequency encoding

Philip H. Marshall, Libardo Eduardo Caraveo-Ramos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Two experiments are reported that examine the nature of the processing of frequency information in Spanish-English bilinguals. In the first study, subjects studied a list of English-only, Spanish-only, and mixed-language words varying in their frequency of occurrence, and under conditions of being either informed or uninformed about the later frequency test. Subjects were then shown pictures represeting the nominally presented items and had to give frequency judgments for the words depicting the objects. Frequency judgments were significantly faster when the words had been presented in a single language, suggesting a summation of access times for the mixed-language words. Instructional conditions had no effect on frequency judgments, but the latency to judge was significantly reduced for the informed subjects. In the second study, using similar acquisition procedures, subjects were shown test words in either the same or the different language from the one in which the words were originally experienced. Subjects demonstrated a clear ability to assign frequencies according to the relationship between acquisition and test language. The data were discussed in terms of supporting the hypothesis of separate bilingual language processing, and implications for the automatic nature of frequency acquisition were also addressed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-306
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Psycholinguistic Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1984


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