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Do you hear ‘feather’ when listening to ‘rain’? Lexical tone activation during unconscious translation: Evidence from Mandarin-English bilinguals

Do you hear ‘feather’ when listening to ‘rain’? Lexical tone activation during unconscious translation: Evidence from Mandarin-English bilinguals

Wang, Xin ORCID: 0000-0003-0217-7347, Wang, Juan and Malins, Jeffrey G. (2017) Do you hear ‘feather’ when listening to ‘rain’? Lexical tone activation during unconscious translation: Evidence from Mandarin-English bilinguals. Cognition, 169. pp. 15-24. ISSN 0010-0277 (Print), 1873-7838 (Online) (doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2017.07.013)

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Abstract

Although lexical tone is a highly prevalent phonetic cue in human languages, its role in bilingual spoken word recognition is not well understood. The present study investigates whether and how adult bilinguals, who use pitch contours to disambiguate lexical items in one language but not the other, access a tonal L1 when exclusively processing a non-tonal L2. Using the visual world paradigm, we show that Mandarin-English listeners automatically activated Mandarin translation equivalents of English target words such as ‘rain’ (Mandarin ‘yu3’), and consequently were distracted by competitors whose segments and tones overlapped with the translations of English target words (‘feather’, also ‘yu3’ in Mandarin). Importantly, listeners were not distracted by competitors that overlapped with the translations of target words in all segments but not tone (‘fish’; Mandarin ‘yu2’), nor were they distracted by competitors that overlapped with the translations of target words in rime and tone (‘wheat’, Mandarin ‘gu3’). These novel results demonstrate implicit access to L1 lexical representations through automatic/unconscious translation, as a result of cross-language top-down and/or lateral influence, and highlight the critical role of lexical tone activation in bilingual lexical access.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Unconscious translation; Lexical tone; Bilingualism; Spoken word recognition; Visual world paradigm; Bilingual lexical access
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PE English
P Language and Literature > PI Oriental languages and literatures
Faculty / Department / Research Group: Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences > Department of Literature, Language & Theatre
Last Modified: 23 Mar 2020 18:47
Selected for GREAT 2016: None
Selected for GREAT 2017: None
Selected for GREAT 2018: None
Selected for GREAT 2019: None
URI: http://gala.gre.ac.uk/id/eprint/27443

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