Language switching in bilingual production: Empirical data and computational modelling

Roberto Filippi, Themis Karaminis, Michael Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

57 Citations (Scopus)
381 Downloads (Pure)


One key issue in bilingualism is how bilinguals control production, particularly to produce words in the less dominant language. Language switching is one method to investigate control processes. Language switching has been much studied in comprehension, e.g., in lexical decision task, but less so in production. Here we first present a study of language switching in Italian–English adult bilinguals in a naming task for visually presented words. We demonstrate an asymmetric pattern of time costs to switch language, where participants incurred a greater time cost to switch into naming in their dominant language (Italian). In addition, costs were greater where the stimuli were interlingual cognates or homographs than words existing in only one language, implicating lexical competition as a source of the cost. To clarify the operation of control processes, we then present two connectionist models of bilingual naming, based on the previous models of Seidenberg and McClelland (1989), Cohen, Dunbar and McClelland (1990), Gilbert and Shallice (2002), and Karaminis and Thomas (2010). Crucially, both models acquired their differential language dominance via an experience-dependent learning process. The models embody different assumptions about the language control processes that produce the switch cost. We consider which processing assumptions are sufficient to explain asymmetric language switch costs and word class effects on language switching in individual word reading, as well as generating novel predictions for future testing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)294-315
JournalBilingualism: Language and Cognition
Issue number2
Early online date30 Oct 2013
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2014


  • bilingualism
  • speech production
  • switching
  • computational modelling


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