Exploring the Lexical Processing of English Loanwords during L1 Sentence Reading: Evidence from Self-Paced Reading

Thumbnail Image
Issue Date
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Bilingual language processing has been extensively researched by studying cognates and code-switches, and a strong argument can be made for language non-selectivity: multiple languages are active during bilingual processing, even in a monolingual context. However, loanwords have not been studied in this context, even though bilingualism and language contact leads to lexical borrowing. This study aimed to explore the processing of loanwords during comprehension. Twenty-eight Dutch native speakers participated in a self-paced reading task in which they read L1 sentences containing an English loanword or a Dutch control word with the same meaning. The integrational status of the loanwords was manipulated, and participants had differing levels of English proficiency. The findings showed that loanwords are read slower than their Dutch counterparts, but that there are no effects of integrational status. L2 proficiency was found to affect the reading times of both loanwords and controls. Loanwords behaved like code-switches during lexical processing, which suggests that something sets them apart from native vocabulary. Whether this is caused by a special status in the mental lexicon or an unknown factor, further research into the lexical processing of loanwords – as well as the interaction with proficiency, and the connection with cognates and code-switching – is key to better understand how bilinguals process words and can strengthen the theory that language processing is non-selective in nature.
Faculteit der Letteren