Comprehension-based language switching between newly learned languages: The role of individual differences

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The Adaptive Control hypothesis and relevant empirical evidence in bilingualism literature have revealed the adaptive nature of bilingual language control in skilled languages, while the language control processes at the very initial stage of new language learning have not been examined. The present study investigated how the individual differences in inhibition ability and language switching experience influence the controlling process of newly learned languages, using event related potentials (ERPs) technology. We first assessed the language switching frequency and inhibition ability of Chinese-English bilinguals on Day 1. Then, all bilinguals learned words from new languages (namely German and Japanese words) during the next six days and completed a comprehension-based language switching task between the newly learned languages on Day 8. Results of mixed-effects models on the behavioral data showed that there were no switching costs (i.e., derived by contrasting switch trials with repeat trials) and no predictive effect of individual difference on the language switching between newly learned languages. However, the ERPs results revealed switching costs and individual difference effects in N2 and LPC. The language switching frequency significantly predicted the variability of the N2 and LPC, and the inhibition ability modulated the switch effect in Japanese as showed in the LPC. These findings suggest that individual differences predict comprehension-based language control between the newly learned languages, providing new evidence for the adaptability of language control from a language comprehension perspective.

Journal of Neurolinguistics, 61, 101036