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Semantic competitor priming within and across languages: The interplay of vocabulary knowledge, learning experience and working memory capacity*

  • LI HONG (a1) and BRIAN MACWHINNEY (a2)


This paper reports three studies of bilingual lexical processing, using the semantic competitor priming (SCP) method of Lee and Williams (2001). Study 1 found a trend of within-language SCP effect for Chinese–English bilinguals with both higher and lower levels of vocabulary knowledge. There was also a cross-language SCP effect, but this was restricted to bilinguals with a lower level of vocabulary knowledge. Study 2 found a cross-language SCP effect for Chinese learners of English in the classroom context. Study 3 found both within- and cross-language SCP effects for bilinguals with study-abroad experience as well as Chinese–English classroom learners who had a higher working memory capacity. Those findings are interpreted in terms of a dynamic view of bilingual language selection.


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Address for correspondence Li Hong, College of Foreign Languages, Chongqing University, Sha Ping Ba, Chongqing, 400044, PR China


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This research was supported by State Scholarship Fund, PR China, the Key Humanities and Social Sciences Fund of Chongqing Education Commission (07SK159) and Research Fund of Research Centre of Language, Cognition and Language Application, Chongqing University. We thank Dr Zhang Fenghui and Miss Ding Jing for their assistance in data collection. We also thank three anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on earlier versions of this manuscript.



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Semantic competitor priming within and across languages: The interplay of vocabulary knowledge, learning experience and working memory capacity*

  • LI HONG (a1) and BRIAN MACWHINNEY (a2)


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