First Language Activation during Second Language Lexical Processing in a Sentential Context

Document Type : Research Paper


Shahid Madani University of Azarbaijan, Tabriz, Iran


 Lexicalization-patterns, the way words are mapped onto concepts, differ from one language      to another. This study investigated the influence of first language (L1) lexicalization patterns on the processing of second language (L2) words in sentential contexts by both less proficient and more proficient Persian learners of English. The focus was on cases where two different senses of a polysemous word in Persian are realized by two independent words in English. For example, Persian uses ‘ماه’ to refer to both ‘moon’ and ‘month’ in English. In the present study, the researchers examined the processing of English translations (moon, month) of polysemous Persian words such as ‘ماه’ in a semantic anomaly judgment task. The participants who were two groups of more proficient and less proficient Persian learners of English were presented with two types of anomalous sentences: anomalous test sentences in which one of the two English words (e.g., month) was used in a context where the other word (e.g., moon) was appropriate (e.g., “A pleasant thing to watch at night is a full month”) and anomalous control sentences in which the same word was used in a context where neither of the two words was appropriate (e.g., “A pleasant thing to eat at night is a full month”). The participants were asked to judge, as quickly and accurately as possible, whether the final word could complete the sentence meaningfully (YES response) or whether the final word was semantically unacceptable (NO response). The participants’ reaction time (RT) for correct No responses and their error rates were recorded using DMDX, a psycholinguistics experimentation software package. Using two General Linear Model Repeated Measures, a main effect of sentence type was obtained in the analysis of both RT and errors. Also, there was an interaction between sentence type and proficiency level in the analysis of both RT and errors. The results are discussed in terms of the activation of the semantic specifications of L1 translation equivalent of L2 words. 


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