Peeters, D., Dijkstra, T., & Grainger, J.
(2011). The cognate facilitation effect is modulated by the word frequency of both readings. Poster presented at Workshop on Bilingualism: Neurolinguistic and Psycholinguistic Perspectives, Aix-en-Provence, France.
When a word is similar in orthography and meaning between the two languages of a bilingual, i.e., when it is a cognate, its recognition is generally facilitated compared to matched control words . There have been contrasting views in the literature on how to explain this facilitation effect for completely identical cognates, such as FILM for Dutch and English . Do identical cognates have one or two orthographic representations in the bilingual brain?
To answer this question, we selected four groups of cognates with either a low or high frequency in the first and/or second language of French-English bilinguals and matched them with English control words. The bilinguals performed an English lexical decision task while their RTs and ERPs were recorded.
The behavioral data showed facilitatory effects of cognate status and English L2 frequency. Further analysis of the identical cognates revealed significant main effects of both English and French frequency. Cognate facilitation was larger for cognates with a low English frequency compared to cognates with a high English frequency.
The electrophysiological data showed a decreased negativity for cognates compared to control words in the N400 time-window. Those effects were more prominent for low-frequency English cognates than for high-frequency English cognates. Interestingly, for cognates with a low English frequency and a high French frequency, an effect was found in an early time-window (100-150 ms after stimulus onset).
These results shed light on the representation of identical cognates in the bilingual brain and question the representational locus of word frequency effects.
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