ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2020, Vol. 52 ›› Issue (12): 1377-1392.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2020.01377

• Reports of Empirical Studies • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Assimilation mechanisms of phonological encoding in second language spoken production for English-Chinese bilinguals

XIN Xin, LAN Tianyi, ZHANG Qingfang()   

  1. Department of Psychology, Renmin University of China, Beijing 100872, China
  • Received:2020-01-16 Published:2020-12-25 Online:2020-10-27
  • Contact: ZHANG Qingfang
  • Supported by:
    Key project of Beijing Social Science Fund(16YYA006);talent cultivation project entrusted by Renmin University of China(18XNLG28)


Whether and how L2 spoken word production influences the similarities and differences between L1 network and L2 network is still controversial. Studies in language comprehension have documented that bilinguals present an accommodation or an assimilation pattern in L2 processing. For bilinguals, an accommodation pattern of L2 involves additional neural correlates than L1, while an assimilation one shows overlapping neural correlates with L1. Using electrophysiological measures, the present study thus aims to compare the patterns of L2 phonological encoding in spoken word production for bilingual speakers.
In a picture-word interference task, we combined the event-related potential (ERP) technique and spatio-temporal segmentation method to examine assimilation and accommodation mechanisms of L2 phonological encoding in English-Chinese bilinguals. Twenty-two native Mandarin speakers (13 males, mean age: 21.9) and 18 English-Chinese bilinguals (13 males, mean age: 22.9) participated in the study. The stimuli materials were designed into two languages (Chinese and English) and paired with three phonologically related conditions (syllabically related, phonemically related, and unrelated). Participants were required to ignore distracter words and name the picture as accurately as possible.
Behavioral data revealed a significant syllable effect in Chinese native speakers, and English-Chinese bilinguals name pictures in both English and Chinese, showing that pictures paired with syllabically related distractors were named faster than those paired with unrelated distractors. ERP data showed that syllabically related distractors elicited a larger modulated ERPs than unrelated ones in the time window of 250~300 ms in native Chinese speakers, and phonemically related distractors elicited a larger waveform than the one in unrelated ones in the time window of 200~250 ms in English-Chinese bilinguals naming pictures in English or Chinese. Results of spatio-temporal segmentation revealed identical microstates (Map1, Map3, and Map4) in English-Chinese bilinguals naming pictures in English or Chinese. There was only a significant difference in microstate duration. However, Chinese native speakers exhibited a different brain microstate (Map2) when they named pictures in Chinese.
In sum, ERP and spatio-temporal segmentation results consistently indicated that English-Chinese bilinguals showed an assimilation pattern in speaking Chinese (L2) network, in which the electrophysiological pattern was more similar to the one when they spoke native English, rather than the one when native Chinese speakers spoke Chinese.

Key words: bilingualism, phonological encoding, assimilation, accommodation