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Revisiting the Revised Hierarchical Model: Evidence for concept mediation in backward translation

  • ZHAOHONG WU (a1) and ALAN JUFFS (a2)

A claim fundamental to the revised hierarchical model (Kroll & Stewart, 1994) was that concepts did not mediate backward translation, based on their findings of a category interference effect in forward translation in relatively fluent bilinguals but no category effect in backward translation. This study hypothesized that there was a category facilitation effect in L2-to-concept, which counterbalanced the category interference effect in concept-to-L1, resulting in an overall L2-to-L1 null category effect.

In a novel English word-pair semantic comparison task, participants were presented with a sequence of English word-pairs, and judged which word's real-world referent was bigger in size. Results found a significant category facilitation effect in both L2-to-concept for young Chinese adults and L1-to-concept for young English adults when increasing the number of trials. The findings help explain why Kroll and Stewart's finding of an overall L2-to-L1 null category effect cannot be evidence against concept mediation in backward translation.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Zhaohong Wu, Room 202, School of English and International Studies, Beijing Foreign Studies University, No. 2 North Xisanhuan Road, Haidian District, Beijing, China 100089
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*We would like to thank Natasha Tokowicz, Marta Ortega-Llebaria, and the three anonymous reviewers for their invaluable comments on this study. This work was supported by the Departmental Research Grant of Linguistics at University of Pittsburgh awarded to Zhaohong Wu and by a grant from the Pittsburgh Science of Learning Center ( to Alan Juffs. The Pittsburgh Science of Learning Center was funded by the United States National Science Foundation award number SBE-0836012. Previously, it was NSF award number SBE-0354420. We are grateful to the participants for their time.

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Bilingualism: Language and Cognition
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