Does the Morphological Structure of L1 Equivalents Influence the Processing of L2 Words? Evidence from Arabic-English Bilinguals
Objective. The current study aims at investigating if the morphological structure of the first language (L1) equivalents affects the processing of second language (L2) words.
Materials & Methods. To this end, 400 Arabic-English bilinguals of two levels of language proficiency completed a free recall task and a discrete word association task in their L2. The stimuli represented cases of lexical matches and mismatches.
Results. The results of the free recall task showed a facilitation effect for lexical matching in one comparison for the participants with lower proficiency while lexical matching led to an inhibitory effect in two comparisons for the participants with higher proficiency. Additionally, the participants with higher proficiency generally recalled more words than the participants with lower proficiency, and recalled monomorphemic words significantly differently than multi-morphemic words in one comparison. As for the results of the word association task, they failed to reveal significance for word type or language proficiency when association strength was considered. Only when the number of associations was considered, a facilitatory effect for lexical matching was observed in one comparison among the participants with lower proficiency.
Conclusions. The results generally support the claim that L2 learners exhibit sensitivity to the morphological structure of L1 words. The results also lend support to the interaction model of morphological processing and the bilingual lexicon models that highlight the influence of language proficiency on language processing.
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