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PSYC 341
Richard Koestner

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Notes on The Influence of Sentence Context Constraint on Cognate Effects in Lexical Decision and Translation by Janet G. Van Hell. 1. Cross-language activation, cognate effect and linguistic context In linguistic, two main theoretical views are taking place on how bilinguals activate and process words in their two languages: the language selective activation and the language- nonselective activation. The language selective activation theory think that bilingual are activating words from the context appropriate language when language nonselective theory think that bilingual are activating words from both languages. Most of studies have shown that words are activated in parallel and so evidence for language nonselective activation is predominant. However, most of those studies have been done in isolation, without a linguistic context (no external help to discover the word/ picture). The research in this paper assumed that bilingual are activating both language at the same time, a language nonselective activation process. For that, Janet G. Van Hell used cognate and non-cognate words. Cognate words are words that have the same common etymological origin (same orthography, semantic and phonology), in this study same origin in English and Dutch, that leads to a faster recognition and production times of cognate words over non-cognate ones. To expand the previous research done (out of a meaningful linguistic context), the author would study the use of cognate and non-cognate words in different context: isolation, high contextualized sentences, and low contextualized sentences. Those kinds of studies have been done with monolingual speakers and the result show that context information influences words processing. Words in a constraining context are recognized faster than words in neutral context. Also in those studies on monolingual speakers, in isolation, concreteness, ambiguity, or frequency are modulated by sentence context: concrete words would be processed faster than abstract ones. This difference disappear in a highly constraint sentence context. The same appear to be right with frequency words and semantic ambiguity. (In isolation great difference, the difference is reduced largely in highly constraint context).  Sentence context is highly predictive of the outcome whatever the word but not all of them are. In natural language situation; the context is only midly predictive. The 3 experiments are studying “whether sentence context modulates cognate effect, and the role of semantic constraint of the sentence context”. The three studies are targeting congregate and non-congregate words in isolation, high constraint sentence, and low constraint sentence context. The participants in the study were fairly proficient in English, and their first language was Dutch. They learn English starting at 10 to their entrance to university in which most of their readings were in English. Lexicon in English was smaller than their native language lexicon. They were all first-year student at the University. 2. Sentence context norming studies Two norming studies were performed to determine the degree of contextual constraint and the plausibility of the sentence contexts to be used. a. Sentence completion study The first studies was done in order to qualify whether the sentence were high or low constraint. 240 participants from the same population of the study were asked to write down the first three reasonable completions that came in mind while present with a one word omitted sentence. b. Sentence plausibility ratings In order to reduce the plausibility of the sentences proposed (more plausible= better performance and so it may interfere with the high constraint of context). 240 from the same population were given the sentences and the intended target word, and were asked about the plausibility. 3. Experiment 1: lexical decision in the second language a. Method A 2 (cognate vs. noncognate) by 3 (high constraint, low constraint or no context) factorial design was used. The participants are 60 fairly fluent bilingual randomly allocated to one of the three context conditions. The mean of comprehension and production was fairly equal for the three groups. 60 words were used (previously studied with the norming groups above): 30 cognates and 30 noncognates. Half of each category was concrete words and half was abstract. Then they were separated in 3 differents categ
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