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Language context effects on interlingual homograph recognition: evidence from event-related potentials and response times in semantic priming

  • Ellen R. A. de Bruijn (a1), Ton Dijkstra (a1), Dorothee J. Chwilla (a1) and Herbert J. Schriefers (a1)

Dutch–English bilinguals performed a generalized lexical decision task on triplets of items, responding with “yes” if all three items were correct Dutch and/or English words, and with “no” if one or more of the items was not a word in either language. Sometimes the second item in a triplet was an interlingual homograph whose English meaning was semantically related to the third item of the triplet (e.g., HOUSE – ANGEL – HEAVEN, where ANGEL means “sting” in Dutch). In such cases, the first item was either an exclusively English (HOUSE) or an exclusively Dutch (ZAAK) word. Semantic priming effects were found in on-line response times. Event-related potentials that were recorded simultaneously showed N400 priming effects thought to reflect semantic integration processes. The response time and N400 priming effects were not affected by the language of the first item in the triplets, providing evidence in support of a strong bottom-up role with respect to bilingual word recognition. The results are interpreted in terms of the Bilingual Interactive Activation model, a language nonselective access model assuming bottom-up priority.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Ellen de Bruijn, Nijmegen Institute for Cognition and Information, University of Nijmegen, P.O. Box 9104, 6500 HE Nijmegen, The Netherlands. E-mail:
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Bilingualism: Language and Cognition
  • ISSN: 1366-7289
  • EISSN: 1469-1841
  • URL: /core/journals/bilingualism-language-and-cognition
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