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Linguistically directed attention to the temporal aspect of action events in monolingual English speakers and Chinese–English bilingual speakers with varying English proficiency*



Chinese and English speakers seem to hold different conceptions of time which may be related to the different codings of time in the two languages. Employing a sentence–picture matching task, we have investigated this linguistic relativity in Chinese–English bilinguals varying in English proficiency and found that those with high proficiency performed differently from those with low proficiency. Additional monolingual English data, reported here, showed further that high-proficiency bilinguals performed similarly to the English monolinguals, suggesting that Chinese speakers’ sensitivity to the time of an action event might be modifiable according to the extent of their experience with a tensed language.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Jenn-Yeu Chen, Institute of Cognitive Science, National Cheng Kung University, 1 University Road, Tainan, Taiwan 701, The Republic of China


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The work reported here was supported by the NSC-96-2752-H-006-001-PAE grant of the National Science Council of Taiwan, the Republic of China, as well as by an internal grant (D16-B0045) of National Cheng Kung University. We thank Yuh-Fang Lee, Yu Zhang, and Jennifer Harms for assistance in administering the experiment, and Danny R. Moates for assistance in recruiting the English-speaking participants at Ohio University. Special thanks go to the anonymous reviewers for their critical but helpful comments on the early versions of the paper. Jui-Ju Su is now at the Basque Center on Cognition, Brain, and Language, Donostia-San Sebastián, Basque Country (Spain).



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Linguistically directed attention to the temporal aspect of action events in monolingual English speakers and Chinese–English bilingual speakers with varying English proficiency*



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