Peeters, D. (2011).The representation and processing of identical cognates. Talk presented at Donders Discussions 2011. Nijmegen, The Netherlands. 2011-10-13 - 2011-10-14.
Across the languages of a bilingual, translation equivalents can have the same orthographic form and shared meaning (e.g., TABLE in French and English). How such words, called identical cognates, are processed and represented in the bilingual brain is not well understood. I will present a study of late French-English bilinguals who processed identical cognates and control words in an L2 (English) lexical decision task. Both behavioral and electrophysiological data were collected. Reaction times to identical cognates were shorter than for non-cognate controls and depended on both English and French frequency. Cognates with a low English frequency showed a larger cognate advantage than those with a high English frequency. In addition, N400 amplitude was found to be sensitive to cognate status and both the English and French frequency of the cognate words. Theoretical consequences for the processing and representation of identical cognates are discussed.