Memory & Cognition

, Volume 46, Issue 6, pp 923–939 | Cite as

Cognates interfere with language selection but enhance monitoring in connected speech

  • Chuchu Li
  • Tamar H. Gollan


The current study investigated the contribution of phonology to bilingual language control in connected speech. Speech production was elicited by asking Mandarin–English bilinguals to read aloud paragraphs either in Chinese or English, while six words were switched to the other language in each paragraph. The switch words were either cognates or noncognates, and switching difficulty was measured by production of cross-language intrusion errors on the switch words (e.g., mistakenly saying 巧克力 (qiao3-ke4-li4) instead of chocolate). All the bilinguals were Mandarin-dominant, but produced more intrusion errors when target words were written in Chinese than when written in English (i.e., they exhibited robust reversed dominance effects). Most critically, bilinguals produced significantly more intrusions on Chinese cognates, but also detected and self-corrected these same errors more quickly than with noncognates. Phonological overlap boosts dual-language activation thus leading to greater competition between languages, and increased response conflict, thereby increasing production of intrusions but also facilitating error detection during speech monitoring.


Cognates Language control Speech error Monitoring Response conflict 



The authors thank Tiffany Ho and Zhujun Shao for composition of the paragraphs and assistance with data collection, and Yang Lu and Zhujun Shao for error coding. This research was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation (BCS1457519) and the National Institute of Health (DC011492; HD051030). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF or NIH.


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© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of CaliforniaLa JollaUSA

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