Role of joint language control during cross-language communication: evidence from cross-frequency coupling

Huanhuan Liu*, Baike Li, Xin Wang, Yuying He

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


How do bilingual interlocutors inhibit interference from the non-target language to achieve brain-to-brain information exchange in a task to simulate a bilingual speaker–listener interaction. In the current study, two electroencephalogram devices were employed to record pairs of participants’ performances in a joint language switching task. Twenty-eight (14 pairs) unbalanced Chinese–English bilinguals (L1 Chinese) were instructed to name pictures in the appropriate language according to the cue. The phase-amplitude coupling analysis was employed to reveal the large-scale brain network responsible for joint language control between interlocutors. We found that (1) speakers and listeners coordinately suppressed cross-language interference through cross-frequency coupling, as shown in the increased delta/theta phase-amplitude and delta/alpha phase-amplitude coupling when switching to L2 than switching to L1; (2) speakers and listeners were both able to simultaneously inhibit cross-person item-level interference which was demonstrated by stronger cross-frequency coupling in the cross person condition compared to the within person condition. These results indicate that current bilingual models (e.g., the inhibitory control model) should incorporate mechanisms that address inhibiting interference sourced in both language and person (i.e., cross-language and cross-person item-level interference) synchronously through joint language control in dynamic cross-language communication.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191–205
Number of pages15
JournalCognitive Neurodynamics
Issue number2
Early online date17 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


  • cross-language communication
  • joint language control
  • cross-frequency coupling
  • bilingualism
  • language switching


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