Kuipers JR & Thierry G (2010) Event-related brain potentials reveal the time-course of language change detection in early bilinguals. NeuroImage, 50 (4), pp. 1633-1638. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.01.076
Using event-related brain potentials, we investigated the temporal course of language change detection in proficient bilinguals as compared to matched controls. Welsh-English bilingual participants and English controls were presented with a variant of the oddball paradigm involving picture-word pairs. The language of the spoken word was manipulated such that English was the frequent stimulus (75%) and Welsh the infrequent stimulus (25%). We also manipulated semantic relatedness between pictures and words, such that only half of the pictures were followed by a word that corresponded with the identity of the picture. The P2 wave was significantly modulated by language in the bilingual group only, suggesting that this group detected a language change as early as 200 ms after word onset. Monolinguals also reliably detected the language change, but at a later stage of semantic integration (N400 range), since Welsh words were perceived as meaningless. The early detection of a language change in bilinguals triggered stimulus re-evaluation mechanisms reflected by a significant P600 modulation by Welsh words. Furthermore, compared to English unrelated words, English words matching the picture identity elicited significantly greater P2 amplitudes in the bilingual group only, suggesting that proficient bilinguals validate an incoming word against their expectation based on the context. Overall, highly proficient bilinguals appear to detect language changes very early on during speech perception and to consciously monitor language changes when they occur.
NeuroImage: Volume 50, Issue 4