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Journal Article

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


Peeters,  David
International Max Planck Research School for Language Sciences, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society, Nijmegen, NL;
Neurobiology of Language Department, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, External Organizations;

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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.

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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.