Is the L2 lexicon different from the L1 lexicon? Evidence from novel word lexicalization

Xiaomei Qiao, Kenneth I. Forster*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Studies on the representation of newly learned words in the native language show that after repeated sessions of learning, novel words produce less form priming than nonwords when they are used as primes in a masked priming experiment. This suggests that the newly learned words have established lexical representations, and therefore start to behave more like real words than nonwords (Qiao & Forster, 2013). Since adult language learning normally happens in a foreign language context rather than in the native language context, it is important to see whether similar results could be obtained if bilingual subjects were taught novel words in their second language (L2) rather than their first language (L1). The current experiment explores this issue using the same procedure and materials as used in the L1 experiment. Results show that in contrast to the nonsignificant priming observed with the L1 speakers, L2 speakers show enhanced facilitatory priming after the same training process. In addition, a significant facilitatory priming effect is also obtained with real words as primes, suggesting that the L1 and L2 lexicons might work in rather different ways. One possibility is that the L2 lexicon is not represented in the same type of memory system as the L1 lexicon, rather it is represented in a system where competitive effects are not observed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-152
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • L2 lexical acquisition
  • L2 lexicon
  • masked priming


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