Lexico-semantic Interaction in Chinese-english Bilingualism

Open Access
Zinszer, Benjamin Daniel
Graduate Program:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
March 19, 2012
Committee Members:
  • Ping Li, Thesis Advisor
  • semantics
  • lexicon
  • concept
  • categorization
  • bilingualism
  • Chinese
  • interaction
The hundreds or thousands of objects that we commonly encounter in daily life are often categorized under a few names that convey some similarity between them (e.g., various types of cups), a behavior known as lexical categorization. Learning to generalize these names across many familiar and novel referents is a challenge for any developing monolingual, but managing two languages adds a new layer of complexity to this task: Languages do not always agree on how objects should be sorted into these lexical categories. Previous research has shown that simultaneous bilinguals faced with these conicting lexical category conventions may produce a unique set of categories which represent a convergence of the two languages and permit greater internal consistency across languages for the speaker. The present study examines lexical categorization in unbalanced Chinese-English bilinguals to identify changes which may occur at the interface of conicting category information in each language. In a picture naming task, these bilinguals categorized 67 common serving dishes (e.g,. cups, plates, bowls) in each language. Categorization patterns are compared between the bilinguals and norming data from monolingual samples. By introducing new predictors describing the learner's language history and behavior (such as length of residence and code-switching frequency), we propose a statistical model to account for shifts in bilingual lexical categorization with specic interest in the eect of L2 (English) on L1 (Chinese). This model offers insight on the relationship between language history, behavior, and monolingual-likeness as well as providing a possible explanation for non-linear developmental trajectories through the mechanism of cross-language lexico-semantic interaction.