The time cost of mixed-language processing: An investigation

Yu Lin Cheng*, David Howard

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Does it take bilinguals longer to process mixed-language information? This study explores, in two reaction time experiments, the hypothesis that there is only a cost to language switching when the switch is unexpected in the context. Prior to the experiments, an on-line language test and a linguistic background questionnaire were employed to select the bilingual participants. In experiment 1, the subjects, who were Mandarin Chinese-Taiwanese bilinguals, were led to think that Mandarin Chinese was the contextually appropriate language, and were slower to respond on a language switch trial. In experiment 2, the participants were led to think that both languages were contextually appropriate, and were not slower to respond on a language switch trial. The data support Grosjean's language mode hypothesis on the mixed-language processing cost, and show that the cost is a result of context rather than an inevitable consequence of a switch.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-222
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Bilingualism
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Bilingual
  • Language processing
  • Language switch cost


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