The processing of interlexical homographs in translation recognition and lexical decision

Support for non-selective access to bilingual memory

Annette M B De Groot*, Philip Delmaar, Stephen J. Lupker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

154 Citations (Scopus)


In three experiments we looked at the processing of interlexical homographs by Dutch-English bilinguals. In Experiment 1 we employed the translation recognition task, a task that forces the participants to activate both language systems simultaneously. In this task the processing of interlexical homographs was inhibited substantially compared to the processing of matched control words, especially when the homograph reading to be selected was the less frequent of the homograph's two readings. In Experiments 2 and 3 we used the lexical decision task: In one condition we asked the participants to categorize letter strings as words or nonwords in Dutch; in a second condition we asked them to do so in English. The makeup of the stimulus set in Experiment 2 permitted the participants to ignore the instructions and to instantiate the task in a language-neutral form - that is, to categorize the letter strings as words in either Dutch or English. Under these circumstances a small, frequency-dependent inhibitory effect for homographs was obtained, but only in condition Dutch. In Experiment 3 the participants were forced in a language-specific processing mode by the inclusion of "nonwords" that were in fact words in the non-target language. Large frequency-dependent inhibitory effects for homographs were now obtained in both language conditions. The combined results are interpreted as support for the view that bilingual lexical access is non-selective.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)397-428
Number of pages32
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology Section A: Human Experimental Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2000


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