Prediction and integration of semantics during L2 and L1 listening

Using the visual world paradigm, we tested whether Dutch-English bilinguals predict upcoming semantic information in auditory sentence comprehension to the same extent in their native (L1) and second language (L2). Participants listened to sentences in L1 and L2 while their eye-movements were measured. A display containing a picture of either a target word or a semantic competitor, and three unrelated objects was shown before the onset of the auditory target word in the sentence. There were more fixations on the target and competitor pictures relative to the unrelated pictures in both languages, before hearing the target word could affect fixations. Also, semantically stronger related competitors attracted more fixations. This relatedness effect was stronger, and it started earlier in the L1 than in the L2. These results suggest that bilinguals predict semantics in the L2, but the spread of semantic activation during prediction is slower and weaker than in the L1.