, Volume 24, Issue 4, pp 477-492

The influence of lexical and conceptual constraints on reading mixed-language sentences: Evidence from eye fixations and naming times


In two experiments, we explored the degree to which sentence context effects operate at a lexical or conceptual level by examining the processing of mixed-language sentences by fluent Spanish-English bilinguals. In Experiment 1, subjects’ eye movements were monitored while they read English sentences in which sentence constraint, word frequency, and language of target word were manipulated. A frequency × constraint interaction was found when target words appeared in Spanish, but not in English. First fixation durations were longer for high-frequency Spanish words when these were embedded in high-constraint sentences than in low-constraint sentences. This result suggests that the conceptual restrictions produced by the sentence context were met, but that the lexical restrictions were not. The same result did not occur for low-frequency Spanish words, presumably because the slower access of low-frequency words provided more processing time for the resolution of this conflict. Similar results were found in Experiment 2 using rapid serial visual presentation when subjects named the target words aloud. It appears that sentence context effects are influenced by both semantic/conceptual and lexical information.

J.A. was supported by National Institutes of Health (NIH) Grant HD07327 for postdoctoral training in psycholinguistics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and by a faculty research award from the State University of New York at Albany. K.R. was supported by a research scientist award from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) (Grant MH01255). This research was also supported by NIMH Grant MH44246 and National Science Foundation (NSF) Grant DBS-9211863, awarded to J.F.K., and by NIH Grant HD26765 and NSF Grant DBS-912375, awarded to K.R. Portions of these data were presented at the annual meeting of the Psychonomic Society, San Francisco, 1991, and the XXVth International Congress of Psychology, Brussels, 1992.