Recent Experience with Words Affects Later Processing in another Language


In a just-published experiment, we have shown that recent experience with a word in your first language affects how you process that same word some time later in your second language. What’s more, whether this recent experience has a positive or negative effect depends on whether that word has the same or a different meaning in the two languages. Our participants read sentences in their first language, Dutch, that contained words like “film”, which has a similar meaning in both languages, and words like “room”, which confusingly means “cream” in Dutch. When the participants were later asked to decide whether these words were real English words, they were faster with words like “film”, but slower for words like “room”. These results show that the representations of words from different languages are strongly interconnected, and that whenever bilinguals switch between languages, this will influence how easily they can process certain words.

Recent experience with cognates and interlingual homographs in one language affects subsequent processing in another language.

Authors: Eva Poort, Jane Warren and Jennifer Rodd

Keywords: Lexical decision; Cognates; Interlingual homographs; Language switching; Word-meaning priming

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