Alison Shell · [LSLT] Language Control in Bilingual Production: Language-specific or a General Cognitive Process?
In order for a bilingual to speak, s/he must select lexical items from the intended language while inhibiting representations from the non-target language. The field has yet to settle upon whether this selection is language-specific (e.g. Costa and Caramazza, 1999) or requires domain general inhibitory control (e.g. Green, 1998). Switching between languages incurs a “switch cost” (e.g., Meuter & Allport, 1999), suggesting lexical selection from the new language requires additional resources. Indirect evidence for domain-general processes of language control has been demonstrated by correlation between individual differences in language-switching and cognitive control abilities (e.g., Linck et al., 2012) and the ‘bilingual advantage’, which shows an advantage in performance on general cognitive tasks in bilingual speakers (e.g., Bialystok et al, 2008). The current study was designed to directly investigate the involvement of inhibitory control in bilingual language use. Specifically, we wanted to determine if language control involves language–specific inhibition or if the mechanisms involved in language switching might overlap with more domain-general inhibitory control. By taxing domain general inhibitory control during a language-switching task, we were able to look directly at the interaction between inhibitory control and the processes involved in language switching. We do find an interaction between the two tasks suggesting shared mechanisms, however the direction of the effect suggests that the tasks may, in fact, be interacting through conflict adaptation. The implications of these findings and future directions are discussed.