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Semantic and translation priming from a first language to a second and back: Making sense of the findings.

Memory & Cognition

Awareness, Comprehension, Female, Humans, Male, Multilingualism, Young Adult, Paired-Associate Learning, Reading, Semantics, Translating, Adolescent

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      The present study investigated cross-language priming effects with unique noncognate translation pairs. Unbalanced Dutch (first language [L1])-English (second language [L2]) bilinguals performed a lexical decision task in a masked priming paradigm. The results of two experiments showed significant translation priming from L1 to L2 (meisje-girl) and from L2 to L1 (girl-meisje), using two different stimulus onset asynchronies (SOAs) (250 and 100 msec). Although translation priming from L1 to L2 was significantly stronger than priming from L2 to L1, the latter was significant as well. Two further experiments with the same word targets showed significant cross-language semantic priming in both directions (jongen [boy]-girl; boy-meisje [girl]) and for both SOAs. These data suggest that L1 and L2 are represented by means of a similar lexico-semantic architecture in which L2 words are also able to rapidly activate semantic information, although to a lesser extent than L1 words are able to. This is consistent with models assuming quantitative rather than qualitative differences between L1 and L2 representations.

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