Markedness Effects in Norwegian-English Bilinguals: Task-Dependent Use of Language-Specific Letters and Bigrams

Q J Exp Psychol (Hove). 2012;65(11):2129-54. doi: 10.1080/17470218.2012.679946. Epub 2012 May 4.


This study investigates how bilinguals use sublexical language membership information to speed up their word recognition process in different task situations. Norwegian-English bilinguals performed a Norwegian-English language decision task, a mixed English lexical decision task, or a mixed Norwegian lexical decision task. The mixed lexical decision experiments included words from the nontarget language that required a "no" response. The language specificity of the Bokmål (a Norwegian written norm) and English (non)words was varied by including language-specific letters ("smør", "hawk") or bigrams ("dusj", "veal"). Bilinguals were found to use both types of sublexical markedness to facilitate their decisions, language-specific letters leading to larger effects than language-specific bigrams. A cross-experimental comparison indicates that the use of sublexical language information was strategically dependent on the task at hand and that decisions were based on language membership information derived directly from sublexical (bigram) stimulus characteristics instead of indirectly via their lexical representations. Available models for bilingual word recognition fail to handle the observed marker effects, because all consider language membership as a lexical property only.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cues
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Multilingualism*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology*
  • Semantics*
  • Vocabulary*