Interlingual Homograph Recognition by Bilinguals: A New Paradigm

  • Lynne N. Kennette Wayne State University
  • Lisa R. Van Havermaet Wayne State University


In an exploratory study, bilingual individuals were presented with a list of English, French and interlingual homograph (IH) words that exist in both lexicons but differ in meaning (e.g., coin means “corner” in French). Participants were then shown pictorial representations of these stimuli (of both referents for interlingual homographs) and asked to decide whether each had appeared on the prior list. There was a main effect of word category for both accuracy and reaction times (RTs): English and French interlingual homograph items resulted in responses that were slower and less accurate than non-interlingual homograph items. This new paradigm provides an important advantage to researchers. Because recognition is not affected by surface features, it is a more accurate evaluation of conceptual representation. Results are discussed in light of bilingual processing models. It is important to note that the fluency in each language was not measured so it was not possible to ensure that the language-dominant groups differed significantly in their proficiency from the balanced bilingual group. Additional studies are needed to verify the findings reported herein.


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