A network model of lexical organisation in the bilingual brain

In this article a novel approach to modelling the mental lexicon of bilingual speakers is presented. It assumes non-selective, integrated organisation, as supported by much of the recent psycholinguistic evidence, and suggests how a principle of cortical proximity of near-equivalent mediatory ‘word columns' in two languages could facilitate the operation of intertwined language-specific networks. Such networks are seen as distinguished by differential phonological anchoring. The model emphasises the level of lexical concepts and the recombination of shared bundles of ‘micro-functional' features in processes likely to be involved in expressing the same conceptual content in one language or the other. This is illustrated with examples of the hypothetical production of near-equivalent English and French sentences by a bilingual speaker. It is proposed that fluent bilinguals utilize the micro-functional level more fully than late second language learners, thus largely bypassing the need for lexeme-to-lexeme translation.

Key words: mental lexicon, bilingualism, network model, lexical concepts, translation


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