Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Thesis defense Sybrine Bultena (Donders Series 142)

26 November 2013

Promotors: Prof.dr. A.F.J. Dijkstra, Prof.dr. A.G. van Hell

Bilingual processing of cognates and language switches in sentence context

In talking about language, we usually distinguish between different languages. Yet, in our minds, such a distinction seems less obvious. The mental lexicon of a bilingual is assumed to be integrated, which results in interactions between the first (L1) and second language (L2). When languages overlap, your L1 may help you in processing your L2. This is observed, for example, in case of so-called cognates, translation equivalents that are similar in both meaning and form, such as the Dutch word ‘dansen’ and the English word ‘dance’. Upon reading an L2 cognate in English, Dutch-English bilinguals process these cognates more easily than non-cognate control words. Apart from facilitatory effects, processing of another language may also lead to problems in cases of language specificity. This is observed, for example, when bilinguals switch between languages. Language switching incurs a switch cost, which means processing a word in English is harder after having just processed a Dutch word. These effects resulting from similarities and differences between L1 and L2 and possible interaction thereof are therefore interesting to examine in order to get more insight in bilingual processing. This thesis examines processing of cognates and language switches in sentence context.