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Divergence and overlap in bilingual conceptual representation: does prior language brokering experience matter?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 October 2016

University of Texas at Austin
Texas A&M University
Address for correspondence: Belem G. López, Department of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas


The present research examined whether conceptual divergence is reduced in bilinguals with extensive informal translation experience. Across two experiments, Spanish–English bilinguals (brokers vs. non-brokers) generated exemplars for 10 categories, using the same or different language across sessions. Both groups demonstrated more divergence for different than same language responses across sessions a week apart. More convergence was found in both groups for no delay compared to delayed responses. Brokers showed significantly more convergence in exemplars than non-brokers; for both immediate and delayed sessions Findings indicate exemplars are differentially accessible depending on language and timing of response, but also individual differences in brokering experience. Extensive brokering experience may lead to a more integrated conceptual representation for features of concepts shared across languages. Findings support concept models that emphasize the dynamic and distributed nature of concepts, and underscore the need to consider the cognitive impact of systematic sources of variability among bilinguals.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2016 

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A number of student research assistants at Texas A&M University and the University of Texas provided invaluable help in data collection and coding: Kelly Milliken, Eleazar Montes, Zaira Cortes, Katerin Cerrato, Mayra Chantal Bonilla, Esteffania Lezama, Gerardo Morales Mendez, Katarina Antolovic, and Melissa Solano. We are grateful to Roberto Heredia, Anna Cieslicka and Monica Muñoz for facilitating access to participants at TAMIU, where part of the data were collected for Experiment 2. We also thank Dr. Michel Paradis, Dr. Debra Jared, and three reviewers for their comments on the manuscript. Portions of this research were presented at the 2013 meeting of the Psychonomics Society, Toronto. Preparation of this manuscript was supported in part by a Faculty Development Leave awarded to the second author by Texas A&M University.


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