Understanding Bilingual Word Learning: The Role of Phonotactic Probability and Phonological Neighborhood Density Purpose Previous research has shown that the language-learning mechanism is affected by bilingualism resulting in a novel word learning advantage for bilingual speakers. However, less is known about the factors that might influence this advantage. This article reports an investigation of 2 factors: phonotactic probability and phonological neighborhood density. ... Research Article
Research Article  |   December 20, 2017
Understanding Bilingual Word Learning: The Role of Phonotactic Probability and Phonological Neighborhood Density
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Vishnu KK Nair
    Discipline of Speech Pathology and Audiology, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia
    ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders, Department of Cognitive Science, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia
  • Britta Biedermann
    ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders, Department of Cognitive Science, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia
    School of Psychology and Speech Pathology, Curtin University, Perth, Australia
  • Lyndsey Nickels
    ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders, Department of Cognitive Science, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia
  • Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication.
    Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication.×
  • Correspondence to Vishnu KK Nair, who is now only affiliated with Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia: vishnu.nair@mq.edu.au
  • Editor: Rhea Paul
    Editor: Rhea Paul×
  • Associate Editor: Ann Tyler
    Associate Editor: Ann Tyler×
Article Information
Development / Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Speech, Voice & Prosody / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   December 20, 2017
Understanding Bilingual Word Learning: The Role of Phonotactic Probability and Phonological Neighborhood Density
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 2017, Vol. 60, 3551-3560. doi:10.1044/2017_JSLHR-L-15-0376
History: Received October 30, 2015 , Revised May 14, 2016 , Accepted August 14, 2017
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 2017, Vol. 60, 3551-3560. doi:10.1044/2017_JSLHR-L-15-0376
History: Received October 30, 2015; Revised May 14, 2016; Accepted August 14, 2017

Purpose Previous research has shown that the language-learning mechanism is affected by bilingualism resulting in a novel word learning advantage for bilingual speakers. However, less is known about the factors that might influence this advantage. This article reports an investigation of 2 factors: phonotactic probability and phonological neighborhood density.

Method Acquisition of 15 novel words varying in phonotactic probability and phonological neighborhood density was examined in high-proficiency, early onset, Mandarin–English bilinguals and English monolinguals.

Results Both bilinguals and monolinguals demonstrated a significant effect of phonotactic probability and phonological neighborhood density. Novel word learning improved when the phonological neighborhood density was higher; in contrast, higher phonotactic probability resulted in worse learning. Although the bilingual speakers showed significantly better novel word learning than monolingual speakers, this did not interact with phonotactic probability and phonological neighborhood density manipulations.

Conclusion Both bilingual and monolingual word learning abilities are constrained by the same learning mechanisms. However, bilingual advantages may be underpinned by more effective allocation of cognitive resources due to their dual language experience.

Acknowledgments
During the preparation of this article, Vishnu KK Nair was supported by an International Macquarie University Research Excellence Scholarship (iMQRES 2011105), ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders, Department of Cognitive Science, Macquarie University. Lyndsey Nickels was supported by an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship (FT 120100102), and Britta Biedermann was supported by an Australian Research Council Postdoctoral Fellowship and Discovery Project (DP 11010079). We would like to thank Katherine Demuth for her suggestions in the planning stages of this research and on an earlier version of the paper, and Steven Saunders and Lois MacCullagh for their assistance in stimulus preparation and recording.
Order a Subscription
Pay Per View
Entire Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research content & archive
24-hour access
This Article
24-hour access