The Role of Cognitive Control in Bilingual Code-Switch Comprehension

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Bilinguals experience a conflict when comprehending a sentence that code-switches from one language to another. However, why bilinguals experience conflict during code-switch comprehension is unclear. This study asks: Does being in a cognitive state conducive to resolving conflict help bilinguals read code-switches faster? If so, it would indicate that comprehending a code-switch involves conflict at an early lexical/syntactic level because faster resolution of the conflict would facilitate faster code-switch reading. 101 Spanish-English bilinguals completed Flanker-arrow trials to manipulate their engagement of cognitive control—which regulates conflict detection and resolution. Immediately after this cognitive-control manipulation, bilinguals read code-switched or unilingual sentences. Having cognitive control engaged prior to encountering a code-switch did not result in faster reading of code-switches. This finding provides preliminary evidence that reading a code-switch may not involve conflict at a lexical/syntactic level. Future work should further investigate the type of conflict that bilinguals encounter during code-switch comprehension.