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The representation and processing of identical cognates by late bilinguals: RT and ERP effects

Peeters, D., Dijkstra, T., & Grainger, J. (2013). The representation and processing of identical cognates by late bilinguals: RT and ERP effects. Journal of Memory and Language, 68, 315-332. doi:10.1016/j.jml.2012.12.003.
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 orthographically identical cognates, are processed and represented in the bilingual brain is not well understood. In the present study, late French–English bilinguals processed such identical cognates and control words in an 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.
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The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is an institute of the German Max Planck Society. Our mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological,social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind, and how we can learn languages of quite different types.

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