The acquisition of an artificial logographic script and bilingual working memory: evidence for L1-specific orthographic processing skills transfer in Chinese-English bilinguals.
Studies of orthographic skills transfer between languages focus mostly on working memory (WM) ability in alphabetic first language (L1) speakers when learning another, often alphabetically congruent, language. We report two studies that, instead, explored the transferability of L1-orthographic processing skills in WM in logographic-L1 and alphabetic-L1 speakers. EnglishFrench bilingual and English monolinguals (both alphabetic-L1) speakers and ChineseEnglish (logographic-L1) speakers learned a set of artificial logographs and associated meanings (Study 1). The logographs were used in WM tasks with and without concurrent articulatory or visuo-spatial suppression. The logographic-L1 bilinguals were markedly less affected by articulatory suppression than alphabetic-L1 monolinguals (who did not differ from their bilingual peers). Bilinguals overall were less affected by spatial interference, reflecting superior phonological processing skills or, conceivably, greater executive control. A comparison of span sizes for meaningful and meaningless logographs (Study 2) replicated these findings. However, the logographic-L1 bilinguals' spans in L1 were measurably greater than those of their alphabetic-L1 (bilingual and monolingual) peers; a finding unaccounted for by faster articulation rates or differences in general intelligence. The overall pattern of results suggests an advantage (possibly perceptual) for logographic-L1 speakers, over and above the bilingual advantage also seen elsewhere in third language (L3) acquisition.