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Cross-linguistic activation of implicit causality biases in Korean learners of English



This study investigates how the strength of referential biases associated with implicit vs explicit causality predicates in Korean affects Korean-speaking learners’ reference choices in English. Sentence-completion experiments with Korean (Experiment 1a) and English (1b) native speakers showed that Korean speakers referred to the subject more following predicates with explicit vs implicit causality marking, whereas English speakers showed no difference in referential bias for the English translation correspondents of these predicates, which did not contain explicit causality marking. In Experiment 2, Korean learners of English completed an English sentence-completion task, either preceded or followed by a translation task, to test whether strength of referential bias in Korean would affect their referential choices in English. After factoring in individual differences in cross-linguistic associations, results provided evidence that cross-language activation at the word level affects reference processing at a discourse level, with the predicted effect somewhat enhanced by translation priming.

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Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Hyunwoo Kim, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, Department of Second Language Studies, 1890 East-West Road, Moore Hall, rm570, Honolulu, HI 96822,


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We would like to thank Yangon Rah for helping with data collection and annotating translations, Bonnie Fox and Ivana Matson for English annotations, Jihyun Kim and Gyu-ho Shin for Korean annotations, and Laura Ahn, Jihyun Kim, Ann Im, and Heejung Seo for translation. We are also grateful to William O'Grady, Amy J. Schafer, Bonnie D. Schwartz, Shinichiro Fukuda, as well as three anonymous reviewers for their insightful feedback and comments on various aspects of this work. This project was supported in part by a Fulbright Scholarship to the first author.

Supplementary material can be found online at



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