About this Research Topic
The aim of this Frontiers Research Topic is to reach a more precise understanding of how individuals who know two or more languages (or dialects) or who learn a second language (or dialect) encode spoken words in the mental lexicon. Existing research on the nature of spoken-word representations has focused mainly on native speakers. An important debate in this literature is whether native speakers encode auditory words in phonetically detailed exemplars or whether phonological abstraction takes place, with a range of possibilities existing between these two endpoints. However, this particular debate has received much less attention in the bilingual (and bidialectal) literature. This Frontiers Research Topic seeks to understand the factors that determine how bilingual (and bidialectal) speakers encode words in the mental lexicon with a particular emphasis on the quality of these lexical representations: How abstract are these representations? What is the nature of these representations? The degree to which phonological abstraction takes place may well depend on factors such as age of acquisition of the language, frequency of exposure to and use of the language, and overall proficiency in the language (this last factor may or may not be dissociable from the first two factors). The degree to which phonological abstraction takes place may also depend on factors such as the type and token frequency of the particular word and the speakers’ familiarity with the word. In the case of bidialectalism, phonological abstractions may be modulated by length or intensity of bidialectalism (due perhaps to mobility) or by social forces leading to dialectal change at the level of the speech community. Investigating the role of these factors in bilingual and bidialectal speakers’ representation of spoken words also raises a number of methodological questions, including how proficiency should be assessed and how lexical frequency should be estimated. Given the complexity of bilingualism and bidialectalism, reaching a more precise understanding of these factors is the first step necessary to any account of phonology in the bilingual (and bidialectal) lexicon. We welcome original research articles, reviews, theoretical articles, methodological articles, as well as brief commentaries/opinion pieces.
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