Language Learning and Control in Monolinguals and Bilinguals

James Bartolotti*, Viorica Marian

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


Parallel language activation in bilinguals leads to competition between languages. Experience managing this interference may aid novel language learning by improving the ability to suppress competition from known languages. To investigate the effect of bilingualism on the ability to control native-language interference, monolinguals and bilinguals were taught an artificial language designed to elicit between-language competition. Partial activation of interlingual competitors was assessed with eye-tracking and mouse-tracking during a word recognition task in the novel language. Eye-tracking results showed that monolinguals looked at competitors more than bilinguals, and for a longer duration of time. Mouse-tracking results showed that monolinguals' mouse movements were attracted to native-language competitors, whereas bilinguals overcame competitor interference by increasing the activation of target items. Results suggest that bilinguals manage cross-linguistic interference more effectively than monolinguals. We conclude that language interference can affect lexical retrieval, but bilingualism may reduce this interference by facilitating access to a newly learned language.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1129-1147
Number of pages19
JournalCognitive Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 2012


  • Bilingualism
  • Eye-tracking
  • Language interference
  • Language learning
  • Language processing
  • Mouse-tracking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Artificial Intelligence


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