University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics


This lexical decision task tests the salience of the first language phonological filter in fluent Russian-English adult bilinguals. The results show that illegal English nonwords with sound clusters impossible for English but which are at the same time legal for Russian (which means they occur in Russian), are sooner recognized as such than those nonwords that do not violate constraints of either language. All critical items have the same structure (CCVCC), with one-to-one grapheme-phoneme correspondence and are controlled for frequency and neighborhood density. As expected, both groups have significantly lower accuracy and take longer to process legal nonwords, and native English speakers have faster processing times and better accuracy than the bilingual group. The results of the experiment and the debriefing session suggest that, at the level of phonological processing, fluent adult bilinguals seem well aware of the information that is impossible in L2 and reject illegal items before accessing lexical knowledge.