Parallel language activation and inhibitory control in bimodal bilinguals

Marcel R. Giezen*, Henrike K. Blumenfeld, Anthony Shook, Viorica Marian, Karen Emmorey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Findings from recent studies suggest that spoken-language bilinguals engage nonlinguistic inhibitory control mechanisms to resolve cross-linguistic competition during auditory word recognition. Bilingual advantages in inhibitory control might stem from the need to resolve perceptual competition between similar-sounding words both within and between their two languages. If so, these advantages should be lessened or eliminated when there is no perceptual competition between two languages. The present study investigated the extent of inhibitory control recruitment during bilingual language comprehension by examining associations between language co-activation and nonlinguistic inhibitory control abilities in bimodal bilinguals, whose two languages do not perceptually compete. Cross-linguistic distractor activation was identified in the visual world paradigm, and correlated significantly with performance on a nonlinguistic spatial Stroop task within a group of 27 hearing ASL-English bilinguals. Smaller Stroop effects (indexing more efficient inhibition) were associated with reduced co-activation of ASL signs during the early stages of auditory word recognition. These results suggest that inhibitory control in auditory word recognition is not limited to resolving perceptual linguistic competition in phonological input, but is also used to moderate competition that originates at the lexico-semantic level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9-25
Number of pages17
StatePublished - May 1 2015


  • Bimodal bilingualism
  • Cross-linguistic competition
  • Inhibitory control
  • Visual world paradigm

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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