Effects of language experience, use, and cognitive functioning on bilingual word production and comprehension

Kaitlyn A. Litcofsky, Darren Tanner, Janet G. van Hell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Aims and objectives/purpose/research questions: Considerable research has investigated how bilinguals produce and comprehend words, focusing mainly on how bilinguals are able to select words from the appropriate language. Less research, however, has investigated whether production and comprehension involve the same underlying mechanisms. The present study explores this issue by examining whether production and comprehension, in the first language (L1) and second language (L2), are similarly influenced by factors relating to language experience, language use, and cognitive functioning. Design/methodology/approach: Spanish-English bilinguals living in an English-speaking environment completed a picture naming task and a lexical decision task in their L1 and L2. In addition, participants completed the Operation Span task testing working memory and the Flanker task testing inhibitory control, and completed a language history questionnaire probing their language experience, relative proficiency, and codeswitching behavior. Data and analysis: Performance on all tasks was submitted to correlation analyses and the impact of individual difference measures on word production and comprehension was assessed via regression analyses. Findings/conclusions: Results showed that (1) production and comprehension were more closely linked in L1 than in L2; (2) production in L1 and L2 was predicted by language proficiency; and (3) comprehension in L1 and L2 was predicted by working memory. Originality: This is the first study to compare lexical processing in production and comprehension in both L1 and L2 and how these processes are influenced by language experience, use, and cognitive factors. Significance/implications: Word production and comprehension appear to be more tightly linked in L1 than L2, but seem to rely on different processing mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)666-683
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Bilingualism
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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