Journal of Psycholinguistic Research

, Volume 36, Issue 5, pp 383–409 | Cite as

The Effect of Phonological Structure on Visual Word Access in Bilinguals

Original Paper


Two experiments examined if visual word access varies cross-linguistically by studying Spanish/English adult bilinguals, priming two syllable CVCV words both within (Experiment 1) and across (Experiment 2) syllable boundaries in the two languages. Spanish readers accessed more first syllables based on within syllable primes compared to English readers. In contrast, syllable-based primes helped English readers recognize more words than in Spanish, suggesting that experienced English readers activate a larger unit in the initial stages of word recognition. Primes spanning the syllable boundary affected readers of both languages in similar ways. In this priming context, primes that did not span the syllable boundary helped Spanish readers recognize more syllables, while English readers identified more words, further confirming the importance of the syllable in Spanish and suggesting a larger unit in English. Overall, the experiments provide evidence that readers use different units in accessing words in the two languages.


Bilingualism Spanish/English Reading Visual word activation Priming 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Communication Science and DisordersNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA
  3. 3.Department of LinguisticsNortheastern Illinois UniversityChicagoUSA

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