Journal of Psycholinguistic Research

, Volume 37, Issue 3, pp 141–170

Sensitivity to Phonological Similarity Within and Across Languages

  • Viorica Marian
  • Henrike K. Blumenfeld
  • Olga V. Boukrina
Original Article


The influence of phonological similarity on bilingual language processing was examined within and across languages in three experiments. Phonological similarity was manipulated within a language by varying neighborhood density, and across languages by varying extent of cross-linguistic overlap between native and non-native languages. In Experiment 1, speed and accuracy of bilinguals’ picture naming were susceptible to phonological neighborhood density in both the first and the second language. In Experiment 2, eye-movement patterns indicated that the time-course of language activation varied across phonological neighborhood densities and across native/non-native language status. In Experiment 3, speed and accuracy of bilingual performance in an auditory lexical decision task were influenced by degree of cross-linguistic phonological overlap. Together, the three experiments confirm that bilinguals are sensitive to phonological similarity within and across languages and suggest that this sensitivity is asymmetrical across native and non-native languages and varies along the timecourse of word processing.


Phonology Language production Language recognition Bilingualism Eye-tracking 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Allopenna P.D., Magnuson J.S. and Tanenhaus M.K. (1998). Tracking the time course of spoken word recognition using eye movements: Evidence for continuous mapping models. Journal of Memory and Language, 38: 419–439 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Arnold H., Conture E. and Ohde R. (2005). Phonological neighborhood density in the picture naming of young children who stutter. Journal of Fluency Disorders, 30: 125–148 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baayen H., Piepenbrock R. and Van Rijn H. (1995). The CELEX lexical database (CD-ROM). University of Pennsylvania Linguistic Data Consortium, Philadelphia Google Scholar
  4. Best C.T. (1995). A direct realist view of cross-language speech perception. In: Strange, W. (eds) Speech perception and linguistic experience: Theoretical and methodological issues in cross-language speech research., pp 171–204. York Press, Timonium Google Scholar
  5. Blumenfeld, H. K., & Marian, V. (2005). Covert bilingual language activation through cognate word processing: An eye-tracking study. In Proceedings of the twenty-seventh annual meeting of the cognitive science society (pp. 286–291). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  6. Bradlow A.R. and Bent T. (2002). The clear-speech effect for non-native listeners. Journal of the Acoustic Society of America, 112: 272–284 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bradlow A.R. and Pisoni D.B. (1999). Recognition of spoken words by native and non-native listeners: Talker-, listener- and item-related factors. Journal of the Acoustic Society of America, 106: 2074–2085 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brody N. (1992). Intelligence (2nd ed., pp. 168–214). Academic Press, San Diego Google Scholar
  9. Brysbaert M., Van Dyck G. and Van de Poel M. (1999). Visual word recognition in bilinguals: Evidence from masked phonological priming. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 25: 137–148 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Ceci S.J. (1996). On Intelligence: A bioecological treatise on intellectual development (Expanded ed., pp. 69–90). Harvard University Press, Cambridge Google Scholar
  11. Costa A., Caramazza A. and Sebastian-Galles N. (2000). The cognate facilitation effect: Implications for models of lexical access. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 26: 1283–1296 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Costa A. and Sebastian-Galles N. (1998). Abstract phonological structure in language production: Evidence from Spanish. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, 24: 886–903 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dahan D. and Tanenhaus M.K. (2005). Looking at the rope when looking for the snake: Conceptually mediated eye movements during spoken-word recognition. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 12: 453–459 Google Scholar
  14. Dijkstra T., Grainger J. and van Heuven W.J.B. (1999). Recognition of cognates and interlingual homographs: The neglected role of phonology. Journal of Memory and Language, 41: 496–518 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dickushina O.J. (1965). English phonetics. Prosvesh’enie, Moscow Google Scholar
  16. Doctor E.A. and Klein D. (1992). Phonological processing in bilingual word recognition. In: Harris, R.J. (eds) Cognitive processing in bilinguals, pp 237–252. Elsevier, Amsterdam Google Scholar
  17. Dunn, L. M. & Dunn, L. M. (1997). Peabody picture vocabulary test (PPVT). American Guidance Service, Circle Pines.Google Scholar
  18. Ferrand L. and Grainger J. (1994). Effects of orthography are independent of phonology in masked form priming. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 47A: 365–382 Google Scholar
  19. Garlock V.M., Walley A.C. and Metsala J.L. (2001). Age of acquisition, word frequency, and neighborhood density in spoken word recognition by children and adults. Journal of Memory and Language, 45: 468–492 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gordon J.K. (2002). Phonological neighborhood effects in aphasic speech errors: Spontaneous and structural contexts. Brain and Language, 82: 113–145 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gordon J.K. and Dell G.S. (2001). Phonological neighborhood effects: Evidence from aphasia and connectionist modeling. Brain and Language, 79: 21–23 Google Scholar
  22. Grainger J., Muneaux M., Farioli F. and Ziegler J.C. (2005). Effects of phonological and orthographic neighbourhood density interact in visual word recognition. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 58A: 981–998 Google Scholar
  23. Grosjean F. (1997). Processing mixed languages: Issues, findings and models. In: de Groot A.M.B., Kroll, J.F. (eds) Tutorials in bilingualism: Psycholinguistic perspectives., pp 225–254. Mahwah, Lawrence Erlbaum Google Scholar
  24. Harley T.A. (1984). A critique of top-down independent levels models of speech production: Evidence from non-plan-internal speech errors. Cognitive Science, 8: 191–219 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Harley T.A. and Bown H.E. (1998). What causes a tip-of-the-tongue state? Evidence for lexical neighborhood effects in speech production. British Journal of Psychology, 89: 151–174 Google Scholar
  26. Imai S., Walley A.C. and Flege J.E. (2005). Lexical frequency and neighborhood density effects on the recognition of native and Spanish-accented words by native English and Spanish listeners. Journal of the Acoustic Society of America, 117: 896–907 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. International Phonetic Association. (1999). Handbook of the international phonetic association: A guide to the use of the international phonetic alphabet. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  28. James L.E. and Burke D.M. (2000). Phonological priming effects on word retrieval and tip-of-the-tongue experiences in young and older adults. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition 26: 1378–1392 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Jared D. and Kroll J.F. (2001). Do bilinguals activate phonological representations in one or both of their languages when naming words?. Journal of Memory and Language, 44: 2–31 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Ju M. and Luce P.A. (2004). Falling on sensitive ears. Psychological Science, 15(5): 314–318 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Jusczyk P.W., Luce P.A. and Charles-Luce J. (1994). Infants’ sensitivity to phonotactic patterns in the native language. Journal of Memory and Language, 33: 630–645 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kaushanskaya M., Marian, V. (2006). Learning foreign words under dual-task conditions. In Proceedings of the twenty-eighth annual meeting of the cognitive science society. Mahwah, Lawrence ErlbaumGoogle Scholar
  33. Kroll J.F. and Stewart E. (1994). Category interference in translation and picture naming: Evidence for asymmetric connections between bilingual memory representations. Journal of Memory and Language, 33: 149–174 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kucera H. and Francis W.N. (1967). Computational analysis of present-day American English. Brown University Press, Providence Google Scholar
  35. Lam A.S.L., Perfetti C.A. and Bell L. (1991). Automatic phonetic transfer in bidialectal reading. Applied Psycholinguistics, 12: 299–311 Google Scholar
  36. Luce P.A. and Pisoni D.B. (1998). Recognizing spoken words: the neighborhood activation model. Ear and Hearing, 19: 1–36 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Marian V. (2007). Bilingual research methods. In: Altarriba, J. and Heredia, R.R. (eds) An introduction to bilingualism: Principles and processses. Erlbaum, Mahwah Google Scholar
  38. Marian V. and Spivey M. (2003). Bilingual and monolingual processing of competing lexical items. Applied Psycholinguistics, 24: 173–193 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Marian V. and Spivey M. (2003). Competing activation in bilingual language processing: Within- and between-language competition. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 6: 97–115 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Marslen-Wilson W.D. (1987). Functional parallelism in spoken word recognition. Cognition, 25: 71–102 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. McClelland J.L. and Elman J.L. (1986). The TRACE model of speech perception. Cognitive Psychology, 18: 1–86 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Meyer A.S. and Bock J. K. (1992). The tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon: Blocking or partial activation? Memory & Cognition, 20: 715–726 Google Scholar
  43. Metsala J.L. (1997). An examination of word frequency and neighborhood density in the development of spoken-word recognition. Memory and Cognition, 25: 47–56 Google Scholar
  44. Nas G. (1983). Visual word recognition in bilinguals: Evidence for a cooperation between visual and sound based codes during access to a common lexical store. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 22: 526–534 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Neisser U., Boodoo G., Bouchard T.J., Boykin A.W., Brody N., Ceci S.J., Halpern D.F., Loehlin J.C., Perloff R., Sternberg R.J. and Urbina S. (1996). Intelligence: Knowns and unknowns. American Psychologist, 51: 77–101 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Newman R.S. and German D.J. (2002). Effects of lexical factors on lexical access among typical language-learning children and children with word-finding difficulties. Language and Speech, 45: 285–317 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Perfetti C.A. and Bell L. (1991). Phonemic activation during the first 40 ms of word identification: Evidence from backward masking and priming. Journal of Memory and Language, 30: 473–485 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Roberts P. and Deslauriers L. (1999). Picture naming of cognate and noncognate nouns in bilingual aphasia. Journal of Communication Disorders, 32: 1–23 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Schulpen B., Dijkstra T., Schriefers H.J. and Hasper M. (2003). Recognition of interlingual homophones in bilingual auditory word recognition. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 26: 1155–1178 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Sharoff, S. (2003). The frequency dictionary for Russian. [Computer software]. Retrieved November 16, 2003, from
  51. Silverberg S. and Samuel A.G. (2004). The effect of age of second language acquisition on the representation and processing of second language words. Journal of Memory and Language, 51: 381–398 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Slowiaczek L.M. and Hamburger M. (1992). Prelexical facilitation and lexical interference in auditory word recognition. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, 18: 1239–1250 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Slowiaczek L.M., McQueen J.M., Soltano E.G. and Lynch M. (2000). Phonological representations in prelexical speech processing: Evidence from form-based priming. Journal of Memory and Language, 43: 530–560 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Slowiaczek L.M., Soltano E.G., Wieting S.J. and Bishop K.L. (2003). An investigation of phonology and orthography in spoken-word recognition. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 56A: 233–262 Google Scholar
  55. Spinelli E., Segui J. and Radeau M. (2001). Phonological priming in spoken word recognition with bisyllabic targets. Language and Cognitive Processes, 16: 367–392 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Spivey M. and Marian V. (1999). Cross-talk between native and second languages: Partial activation of an irrelevant lexicon. Psychological Science, 10: 281–284 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Takayanagi S., Dirks D.D and Moshfegh A. (2002). Lexical talker effects on word recognition among native and non-native listeners with normal and impaired hearing. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, 45: 585–597 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Tanenhaus M., Magnuson J., Dahan D. and Chambers C. (2000). Eye movements and lexical access in spoken language comprehension: Evaluating a linking hypothesis between fixations and linguistic processing. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 29: 557–580 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Tanenhaus M.K., Spivey-Knowlton M.J., Eberhard K.M. and Sedivy J.C. (1995). Integration of visual and linguistic information in spoken language comprehension. Science, 268: 1632–1634 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Van Hell J.G. and Dijkstra T. (2002). Foreign language knowledge can influence native language performance in exclusively native contexts. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 9: 780–789 Google Scholar
  61. Van Orden G.C. (1987). A ROWS is a ROSE: Spelling, sound and reading. Memory & Cognition, 15: 181–198 Google Scholar
  62. Van Orden G.C., Johnston J.C. and Hale B.L.(1988). Word identification in reading proceeds from spelling to sound to meaning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 14: 371–386 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Van Wijnendaele I. and Brysbaert M. (2002). Visual word recognition in bilinguals: Phonological priming from the second to the first language. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 28: 616–627 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Vitevitch M.S. (1997). The neighborhood characteristics of malapropisms. Language and Speech, 40: 211–228 Google Scholar
  65. Vitevitch M.S. (2002). The influence of phonological similarity neighborhoods on speech production. JEP: Learning, Memory and Cognition, 28: 735–747 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Vitevitch M.S. and Luce P.A. (1998). When words compete: Levels of processing in perception of spoken words. Psychological Science, 9: 325–328 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Vitevitch M.S. and Sommers M.S. (2003). The facilitative influence of phonological similarity and neighborhood frequency in speech production in younger and older adults. Memory and Cognition, 31: 491–504 Google Scholar
  68. Weber A. and Cutler A. (2004). Lexical competition in non-native spoken- word recognition. Journal of Memory and Language, 50: 1–25 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Weber A., Paris G. (2004). The origin of the linguistic gender effect in spoken-word recognition: Evidence from non-native listening. In Proceedings of the twenty-sixth annual meeting of the cognitive science society (pp. 1446–1451). Mahwah: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  70. Yates M., Locker L. and Simpson G.B. (2004). The influence of phonological neighborhood on visual word perception. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 11: 452–457 Google Scholar
  71. Ziegler J.C., Muneaux M. and Grainger J. (2003). Neighborhood effects in auditory word recognition: Phonological competition and orthographic facilitation. Journal of Memory and Language, 48: 779–793 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Zevin J.D. and Seidenberg M.S. (2002). Age of acquisition effect in word reading and other tasks. Journal of Memory and Language, 47: 1–29 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Viorica Marian
    • 1
  • Henrike K. Blumenfeld
    • 1
  • Olga V. Boukrina
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Communication Sciences and DisordersNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA

Personalised recommendations