Journal of Psycholinguistic Research

, Volume 47, Issue 4, pp 913–930 | Cite as

Non-Selective Lexical Access in Late Arabic–English Bilinguals: Evidence from Gating

  • Sami Boudelaa


Previous research suggests that late bilinguals who speak typologically distant languages are the least likely to show evidence of non-selective lexical access processes. This study puts this claim to test by using the gating task to determine whether words beginning with speech sounds that are phonetically similar in Arabic and English (e.g., [b,d,m,n]) give rise to selective or non-selective lexical access processes in late Arabic–English bilinguals. The results show that an acoustic-phonetic input (e.g., [bæ]) that is consistent with words in Arabic (e.g., [bædrun] “moon”) and English (e.g., [bæd] “bad”) activates lexical representations in both languages of the bilingual. This non-selective activation holds equally well for mixed lists with words from both Arabic and English and blocked lists consisting only of Arabic or English words. These results suggest that non-selective lexical access processes are the default mechanism even in late bilinguals of typologically distant languages.


Arabic–English bilingualism Cross-language acoustic-phonetic similarities Gating 



The research was funded by the following UAEU-FHSS Grant G00001813 and G00002367. The author would like thank an anonymous reviewer for their helpful suggestions.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The author has no conflict of interest to declare.

Ethical Approval

This study is approved by the United Arab Emirates University Research Ethics Committee: ERH_2016_5442.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsUnited Arab Emirates UniversityAl AinUAE
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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