The effects of exposure type on lexical processing in low-level bilinguals



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This study examines how first-semester L2 learners of Spanish process lexical items. Ninety-three participants who made up two groups, each with a different amount of exposure to the target words, read familiar words and category names in English or Spanish. Reaction times were recorded for the categorization of words during two intra-lingual and two inter-lingual conditions. Statistical analyses revealed no difference between the two exposure groups. The data from the four language conditions showed no difference between English-English and Spanish-English conditions and no difference between English-Spanish and Spanish-Spanish conditions. The results suggest that first-semester learners were able to conceptually mediate to some degree while categorizing familiar L2 words even with only a limited exposure time to the words. This study lends support to a more finely tuned view of the progression from word association to concept mediation as proposed in Farley and Keating (2004) and Farley and Locke (2008). Instead of viewing the nature of lexical access in terms of less-proficient and more-proficient bilinguals, the author suggests that the nature of lexical access is driven by recent exposure to individual lexical items regardless of proficiency level.