Language conflict in translation; An ERP study of translation production

Christoffels, I. K., Ganushchak, L. Y., & Koester, D. (2013). Language conflict in translation; An ERP study of translation production. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 25, 646-664. doi:10.1080/20445911.2013.821127.
Although most bilinguals can translate with relative ease, the underlying neuro-cognitive processes are poorly understood. Using event-related brain potentials (ERPs) we investigated the temporal course of word translation. Participants translated words from and to their first (L1, Dutch) and second (L2, English) language while ERPs were recorded. Interlingual homographs (IHs) were included to introduce language conflict. IHs share orthographic form but have different meanings in L1 and L2 (e.g., room in Dutch refers to cream). Results showed that the brain distinguished between translation directions as early as 200 ms after word presentation: the P2 amplitudes were more positive in the L1L2 translation direction. The N400 was also modulated by translation direction, with more negative amplitudes in the L2L1 translation direction. Furthermore, the IHs were translated more slowly, induced more errors, and elicited more negative N400 amplitudes than control words. In a naming experiment, participants read aloud the same words in L1 or L2 while ERPs were recorded. Results showed no effect of either IHs or language, suggesting that task schemas may be crucially related to language control in translation. Furthermore, translation appears to involve conceptual processing in both translation directions, and the task goal appears to influence how words are processed.
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