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Cross-language semantic influences in different script bilinguals*


The current study examined automatic activation and semantic influences from the non-target language of different-script bilinguals during visual word processing. Thirty-four Arabic–Hebrew bilinguals and 34 native Hebrew controls performed a semantic relatedness task on visually presented Hebrew word pairs. In one type of critical trials, cognate primes between Arabic and Hebrew preceded related Hebrew target words. In a second type, false-cognate primes preceded Hebrew targets related to the Arabic meaning (but not the Hebrew meaning) of the false-cognate. Although Hebrew orthography is a fully reliable cue of language membership, facilitation on cognate trials and interference on false-cognate trials were observed for Arabic–Hebrew bilinguals. The activation of the non-target language was sufficient to influence participants’ semantic decisions in the target language, demonstrating simultaneous activation of both languages even for different-script bilinguals in a single language context. To discuss the findings we refine existing models of bilingual processing to accommodate different-script bilinguals.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Tamar Degani, Department of Communication Sciences & Disorders, University of Haifa, Mount Carmel, Haifa, Israel,
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This work was supported by EU-FP7 grant CIG-322016 to TD.

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Bilingualism: Language and Cognition
  • ISSN: 1366-7289
  • EISSN: 1469-1841
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