Bilingualism: Language and Cognition

Keynote Article

Mental control of the bilingual lexico-semantic system 1

a1 University College London


This paper aims to foster discussion of the means by which bilinguals control their two language systems. It proposes an inhibitory control (IC) model that embodies the principle that there are multiple levels of control. In the model a language task schema (modulated by a higher level of control) “reactively” inhibits potential competitors for production at the lemma level by virtue of their language tags. The IC model is used to expand the explanation of the effect of category blocking in translation proposed by Kroll and Stewart (1994), and predictions of the model are tested against other data. Its relationship to other proposals and models is considered and future directions proposed.

(Received July 9 1997)
(Revision accepted December 27 1997)

c1 Centre for Cognitive Science, Department of Psychology, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, United Kingdom E-mail:


1 I am grateful to the referees of this paper (Wido La Heij, Stephen Monsell and two anonymous referees) for their helpful comments on a previous version of this paper. I should also like to thank Judith Kroll as handling editor for her constructive comments and suggestions and my colleagues Richard Cooper and Tim Shallice for useful discussions.