Cognate effects in sentence context depend on word class, L2 proficiency, and task

Sybrine Bultena, Ton Dijkstra, Janet G. van Hell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Noun translation equivalents that share orthographic and semantic features, called "cognates", are generally recognized faster than translation equivalents without such overlap. This cognate effect, which has also been obtained when cognates and noncognates were embedded in a sentence context, emerges from the coactivation of representations in two languages. The present study examined whether cognate facilitation in sentences is subject to effects of word class, reading proficiency in a second language (L2), and task demands. We measured eye movements (Experiment 1) and self-paced reading times (Experiment 2) for Dutch-English bilinguals reading L2 sentences that contained either a noun or a verb cognate. Results showed that cognate effects were smaller for verbs than for nouns. Furthermore, cognate facilitation was reduced for readers with a higher proficiency in L2 as expressed by self-ratings or reading speed in L2. Additionally, the results of the eye-movement study and the self-paced reading study indicated that the likelihood of observing cognate facilitation effects also depends on task demands. The obtained pattern of results helps to identify some of the boundaries of the cognate effect.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1214-1241
Number of pages28
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • General Psychology
  • Physiology (medical)


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