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Cognitive representation of colour in bilinguals: The case of Greek blues*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2009

Bangor University
Address for correspondence: Department of Linguistics and English Language, Bangor University, Bangor, Gwynedd LL57 2DG,


A number of recent studies demonstrate that bilinguals with languages that differ in grammatical and lexical categories may shift their cognitive representation of those categories towards that of monolingual speakers of their second language. The current paper extended that investigation to the domain of colour in Greek–English bilinguals with different levels of bilingualism, and English monolinguals. Greek differentiates the blue region of colour space into a darker shade called ble and a lighter shade called ghalazio. Results showed a semantic shift of category prototypes with level of bilingualism and acculturation, while the way bilinguals judged the perceptual similarity between within- and cross-category stimulus pairs depended strongly on the availability of the relevant colour terms in semantic memory, and the amount of time spent in the L2-speaking country. These results suggest that cognition is tightly linked to semantic memory for specific linguistic categories, and to cultural immersion in the L2-speaking country.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2008

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I am grateful to Vivian Cook, Debi Roberson, Aneta Pavlenko and Terry Regier. Any faults that remain are entirely my own.


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