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Bidirectional Transfer: Consequences of Translation Ambiguity for Bilingual Word Meaning

Degani, Tamar (2011) Bidirectional Transfer: Consequences of Translation Ambiguity for Bilingual Word Meaning. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Could a second language (L2) influence how bilinguals process their native language (L1)? The work described in this dissertation examined this issue focusing on the way bilinguals interpret the meanings of words. Capitalizing on the prevalence of words that can be translated in more than one way across languages (i.e., translation ambiguity, e.g., ‘watch' and ‘clock' are both translated into Spanish as ‘reloj'), the current work examined if and how bilinguals are affected by the indirect mapping between translations. Performance of two groups of bilinguals who differed in the order in which they learned English and Spanish (English-Spanish and Spanish-English bilinguals) was compared to that of monolingual English controls. In Experiment 1 participants' eye movements were recorded as they read English sentences, in which target words were replaced with English words that either share a translation with the target in Spanish (e.g., ‘clock' to replace ‘watch', both corresponding to ‘reloj' in Spanish) or a control. Participants' sensitivity to the degree of anomaly created by these replacements was compared. The results indicate bidirectional patterns of transfer (L1 influence on L2 and the reverse), in that both bilingual groups processed shared-translation replacements differentially than controls. Experiment 2 further asked if translation ambiguity impacts intra-word senses. Participants were presented with pairs of phrases instantiating different senses of ambiguous English words (e.g., dinner date - expiration date) and were asked to decide if the two senses were related in meaning. Critically, for some pairs of phrases a single Spanish word encompassed both meanings of the ambiguous word (‘joint-translation') and for others each sense corresponded to a different Spanish translation (‘split-translation'). The proportion of ‘yes' responses and latency data again suggest differences between bilinguals and monolinguals as a function of translation status in Spanish. These results demonstrate that language experience continues to shape semantic representations, and highlight the dynamic and interconnected nature of the bilingual lexicon. L2 learning can thus impact the meaning interpretation of words, and may lead to subtle differences in semantic processing between monolingual and bilingual speakers.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Degani, Tamartdegani@pitt.eduTDEGANI
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairTokowicz, NatashaTokowicz@pitt.eduTOKOWICZ
Committee MemberPerfetti, Charles A.Perfetti@pitt.eduPERFETTI
Committee MemberPlaut, David
Committee MemberWarren, TessaTessa@pitt.eduTESSA
Date: 25 September 2011
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 14 June 2011
Approval Date: 25 September 2011
Submission Date: 17 June 2011
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Psychology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Ambiguity; Bilingualism; Eye-tracking; Semantic relatedness; Semantic transfer
Other ID:, etd-06172011-093912
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:47
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:44


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