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Brain Res. 2006 Jan 12;1068(1):170-83. Epub 2005 Dec 20.

Testing a model for bilingual semantic priming with interlingual homographs: RT and N400 effects.

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Center for Language Studies, Radboud University, Wundtlaan 1, 6525XD Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


Using a semantic priming paradigm, this study examines the effects of semantic and lexical-orthographic context on reaction times (RTs) and event-related potentials (ERPs) for interlingual homographs. Dutch-English bilinguals performed an English lexical decision task in which homographs like STEM (meaning "voice" in Dutch) were preceded by primes like ROOT or FOOL that were semantically related or unrelated to the English reading of the target word. Homographs were responded to faster following semantically related primes than following unrelated primes. The responses in both conditions were modulated by the relative frequencies of the two readings of the homographs: responses were faster when their English word frequency was high or when their Dutch word frequency was low. In the ERPs, N400 effects, taken to reflect processes of semantic integration, were found for homographs preceded by related primes. Remarkably, the amplitude of the N400 effect was also modulated by word frequency in both the first (Dutch, L1) and the second (English, L2) language. The observed relationship between lexical and semantic variables supports a model for bilingual semantic priming that extends the language nonselective BIA+ model for bilingual word recognition.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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