During reading, monolingual readers actively predict upcoming words from sentence context. In the project I will present, we ran a series of ERP experiments to gain further knowledge on this lexical prediction.

First, we investigated whether bilingual readers use sentence context to predict upcoming words when they read in their second language. We showed that Spanish-English late bilinguals do not actively predict upcoming words during English sentence comprehension to the same extent as English monolinguals.

A second experiment revealed that bilinguals are actually able to anticipate upcoming words in a similar manner as monolinguals, at least when their two languages are closely related. This has been shown by comparing Spanish monolinguals, Spanish-Catalan early bilinguals and French-Spanish late bilinguals. We concluded that lexical prediction during sentence comprehension depends on language similarity, readers relying on syntactic rules that exist in their first language when they predict words in their second language.

To further explore the influence of linguistic experience on lexical prediction, we compared word anticipation during Spanish sentence reading in two groups of early balanced bilinguals. We observed that early balanced bilinguals predict upcoming words differently depending on whether their native language is Spanish or Basque. Thus, we showed that early language exposure largely shapes prediction mechanisms, so that bilinguals reading in their second language rely on the distributional regularities that are highly relevant in their first language.

Finally, we tested the hypothesis that the production system is recruited for prediction. We compared prediction during sentence comprehension in participants having the production system either available or not. We showed that prediction was hindered only when the production system was taxed during sentence context reading. This last study provides the first direct evidence that the availability of the speech production system is necessary for generating lexical prediction during sentence comprehension.


Clara Martin is Ikerbasque Associate Professor at the Basque Center on Cognition, Brain and Language (BCBL, Spain), where she has acted as leader of the ‘Speech and Bilingualism’ research group since 2014. After obtaining an undergraduate degree from the Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS) of Lyon (France), she completed her Master’s degree and her PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Lyon (2002-2005). She then spent 6 years working as a post-doctoral fellow in two internationally renowned Bilingualism labs, together with Prof. Thierry (Bangor, UK) and Prof. Costa (UPF, Barcelona). In 2012, she joined the BCBL after having been awarded a five-year fellowship from the Ikerbasque institution.

Since 2006, she has been working in the field of Cognitive Neuroscience and Experimental Psychology, and her main area of research is Language Processing and Bilingualism. She has conducted research on word perception and production, focusing mainly on word processing in bilinguals, and more recently on word prediction. She also has an interest in the role of indexical properties, world knowledge, and anticipation at the sentence processing level. She recently started working on several projects on phonemic and speech processing (focusing on accented speech perception and phonemic perception and production) and on the incidence of reading on word recognition and phonemic representations.