ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

心理学报 ›› 2016, Vol. 48 ›› Issue (4): 343-351.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2016.00343

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第二语言水平对双语者语言抑制能力的影响 ——来自英语–汉语单通道双语者和英语–美国手语双通道双语者的证据


  1. (1江苏师范大学语言科学学院, 徐州 221009) (2英国伯明翰大学英语及应用语言学系, 伯明翰 B152TT)
    大连理工大学外语学院, 大连 116024) (4北京外国语大学中国外语教育研究中心, 北京 100089)
  • 收稿日期:2015-05-30 发布日期:2016-04-25 出版日期:2016-04-25
  • 通讯作者: 李恒, E- mail:
  • 基金资助:


Impact of bilingual experiences on language inhibition ability: Evidence from English-Chinese unimodal and English-American sign language bimodal bilinguals

LI Heng1,2; CAO Yu3,4   

  1. (1 School of Linguistic Sciences, Jiangsu Normal University, Xuzhou 221009, China)
    Department of English and Applied Linguistics, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B152TT, UK)
    School of Foreign Languages, Dalian University of Technology, Dalian 116024, China)
    National Research Center for Foreign Language Education, Beijing Foreign Studies University, Beijing 100089, China)
  • Received:2015-05-30 Online:2016-04-25 Published:2016-04-25
  • Contact: LI Heng, E- mail:


采用同形异义词干扰任务考察第二语言水平对英语–汉语单通道双语者和英语–美国手语双通道双语者语言抑制能力的影响。结果发现:(1)高水平英语–汉语单通道双语者的语言抑制能力较强, 但低水平英语–汉语单通道双语者与英语单语者的语言抑制能力没有显著差异, 说明少量的双语经验不足以导致双语认知优势; (2)不同水平的英语–美国手语双通道双语者的语言抑制能力差异不显著。所以如此, 与英语–美国手语双通道双语者不存在口语和手语的双语表征加工竞争有关。整个研究表明, 双语认知优势效应与双语者的二语水平以及通道经验有关。

关键词: 双语者, 语言抑制, 第二语言水平, 认知优势效应


It has been estimated that more than half of the world’s population is bilingual. In the past few decades, numerous studies have shown that bilinguals have an advantage in selecting relevant information, inhibiting competing and distracting information than monolinguals (e.g., Bialystok, Craik, Klein, & Viswanathan, 2004; Costa, Hernández, & Sebastián-Gallés., 2008, to name just a few). Recent research has instead shown a more nuanced story: bilinguals and monolinguals perform equally in either the Stroop or flanker task (Paap & Greenberg, 2013; Sawi & Paap, 2013). To date, it is still hard to confirm that bilinguals have an advantage in language inhibition. While the vast majority of bilingual research has exclusively focused on the study of spoken language users – ‘unimodal’ bilinguals, bimodal bilinguals have received scant attention. ‘Bimodal’ bilinguals, who have acquired a spoken and a signed language, can provide a unique testbed for the bilingual advantage effect. In addition, few studies have looked at whether different second language proficiencies contribute to the same language inhibitory ability in unimodal and bimodal bilinguals. Therefore, the current study examined language inhibition ability in unimodal (English-Chinese) and bimodal (English-American Sign Language) bilinguals with both low and high L2 proficiency.

In Experiment 1 and 2, a homograph interference task was used to investigate bilingual advantage in conflict resolution during sentence processing. Participants were asked to read a sentence ending with a homograph (e.g., He walked along the bank.) and then judge if a target word (e.g., RIVER or MONEY) matched the meaning of the sentence they just read. Although the target word (e.g., MONEY) is semantically related to one meaning of the homograph (bank: a financial institution), it is not the meaning supported by the sentence context (e.g., He walked along) and, consequently, this alternative meaning must be suppressed in order to correctly respond “no”. Thus, a measure of homograph interference can be computed by comparing the mean RT for the target words semantically relevant to the sentences or not.

Experiment 1 showed that the unimodal bilinguals with higher L2 (Chinese) proficiency outperformed the unimodal bilinguals with lower L2 proficiency and the monolinguals on the homograph interference task that required resolving conflict from competing alternative meanings. In addition, there was no difference between the unimodal bilinguals with lower L2 proficiency and the monolinguals. In Experiment 2, there was no performance difference in the homograph interference task between the bimodal bilinguals with higher L2 (American Sign Language) proficiency, the bimodal bilinguals with lower L2 proficiency and the monolinguals. Taken together, the results across the two experiments indicate that both L2 modality and L2 proficiency are mediating factors of bilingual advantage effect.

According to the results of the two experiments, one possible explanation for this enhancement of language inhibitory ability in unimodal bilinguals is that the regular use of two languages requires a mechanism to select the target language and inhibit the non-target language—an experience that may enhance general control mechanism. By contrast, bimodal bilinguals can always sign (gesture) and speak at the same time. The comprehension and production of their two languages involve distinct sensory-motor and perceptual systems, leading to weaker demand on language inhibition. Together, these results attribute the bilingual advantage in linguistic inhibition ability to the unimodal bilingual’s experience of controlling two languages in the same modality.

Key words: bilinguals, language inhibition, L2 proficiency, cognitive advantage effect, modal