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A tale of two frequency effects: Toward a verification model of L2 word recognition

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 November 2019

Nan Jiang
University of Maryland
Man Li
University of Maryland
Taomei Guo
Beijing Normal University
E-mail address:


This study examined the activation of first language (L1) translations in second language (L2) word recognition in a lexical decision task. Test materials included English words that differed in the frequency of their Chinese translations or in their surface lexical frequency while other lexical properties were controlled. Chinese speakers of English as a second language of different proficiencies and native speakers of English were tested. Native speakers produced a reliable lexical frequency effect but no translation frequency effect. English as a second language speakers of lower English proficiency showed both a translation frequency effect and a lexical frequency effect, but those of higher English proficiency showed a lexical frequency effect only. The results were discussed in a verification model of L2 word recognition. According to the model, L2 word recognition entails a checking procedure in which activated L2 words are checked against their L1 translations. The two frequency effects are seen to have two different loci. The lexical frequency effect is associated with the initial activation of L2 lemmas, and the translation frequency effect arises in the verification process. Existing evidence for verification in L2 word recognition and new issues this model raises are discussed.

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© Cambridge University Press 2019 

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