Bidirectional lexical interaction in late immersed Mandarin-English bilinguals

Barbara C. Malt, Ping Li, Aneta Pavlenko, Huichun Zhu, Eef Ameel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


We compared naming patterns for common household objects by monolingual speakers of English and Mandarin and Mandarin-English bilinguals in both their L1 and L2. These bilinguals arrived in the U.S. no earlier than age 15, thus having a well-entrenched L1 and relatively late L2 immersion, and their two languages are dissimilar on many dimensions. Results showed changes to both L1 and L2 word use that increased with greater L2 usage, implying that the lexical network remains plastic over an extended time period. The influence of each language on the other can be understood in the context of specific L1-L2 lexical category differences and other semantic variables. The bilingual outcomes are not consistent with perspectives in which the network stabilizes once an L1 is well-entrenched, nor in which speaking dissimilar languages or continuing to use L1 protects L1 from change. Instead, it supports a more dynamic view of lexical representation in which L1 and L2 representations can be modified at any time and interconnections between them cause each to impact the other.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)86-104
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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