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Journal Article

Morphological processing in early bilinguals: An ERP study of regular and irregular verb processing

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de Diego-Balaguer, R., Sebastian-Galles, N., Diaz, B., & Rodriguez-Fornells, A. (2005). Morphological processing in early bilinguals: An ERP study of regular and irregular verb processing. Cognitive Brain Research, 25(1), 312-325. doi:10.1016/j.cogbrainres.2005.06.003.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0011-2C22-A
Although the age of acquisition of a language has an effect when learning a second language, the similarity between languages may also have a crucial role. The aim of the present study is to understand the influence of this latter factor in the acquisition of morphosyntactic information. With this purpose, two groups of highly proficient early Catalan–Spanish bilinguals were presented with a repetition-priming paradigm with regular and irregular verbs of Spanish. Catalan and Spanish have a similar suffix (-o) for regular verbs and completely different alternations for irregular verbs. Two types of irregular verbs were studied (semi-regular verbs with a systematic diphthong alternation, sentir–siento, and verbs with idiosyncratic changes, venir–vengo). Regular verbs showed the same centro-parietal N400 priming effect in the second-language speakers (L2) as in primary-language (L1) speakers. However, differences between groups, in the ERP pattern and the topography of the N400 effect, were observed for irregular morphology. In L1 speakers, the N400 effect was attenuated only for semi-regular verbs. In contrast, L2 speakers showed a reduced N400 priming effect in both irregular contrasts. This pattern of results suggests that the similarity between languages may help for similar structures but may interfere for dissimilar structures, at least when the two languages have very similar morphological systems.