skip to primary navigation skip to content

CBSU bibliography search

To request a reprint of a CBSU publication, please click here to send us an email (reprints may not be available for all publications)

Limits on bilingualism.
Cutler, A., Mehler, J., Norris, D. & Segui, J.
Nature, 340, 229-230.
Year of publication:
CBU number:
Speech, in any language, is continuous; speakers provide few reliable cues to the boundaries of words, phrases, or other meaningful units. In order to understand speech, listeners have to divide the continuous speech stream into portions that can be mapped onto such meaning units. This segmentation process is so basic to human language comprehension ability that psycholinguists long assumed that all speakers would do it in the same way, i.e. that segmentation routines would be universal. In previous research however (APU/1911), we reported that segmentation routines can be language-specific. Our present study shows that perfectly bilingual French-English speakers do not necessarily command both routines used by the monolingual groups. This suggests that at this level of language processing, there are limits to bilingualism: each speaker has one and only one basic language.