An ERP study of inhibition of non-target languages in trilingual word production

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The present study examined the locus where inhibition of non-target languages is exerted during trilingual word production by analyzing the cue-locked and stimulus-locked ERPs respectively in the n-2 language repetition paradigm. During the experiment, Uighur–Chinese–English trilinguals overtly named Arabic digits in one of their three languages according to a visually presented cue while their behavioral and electrophysiological responses were recorded. The behavioral data revealed insignificant n-2 repetition costs. Cue-locked ERPs revealed also only tiny or marginally significant n-2 repetition effects over some midline electrodes. The stimulus-locked ERP data showed a more negative ERP component elicited by the n-2 repetition trials than the n-2 non-repetition trials around 250 ms after stimulus onset, but no significant difference in this ERP effect between different languages was found. The results indicate that inhibition of non-target languages occurs at the lemma selection phase rather than the language task schemas phase during trilingual language production.

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