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An examination of L2-L1 noncognate translation priming in the lexical decision task: insights from distributional and frequency-based analyses

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 February 2017

Faculty of Arts, Letters and Sciences, Waseda University Department of Psychology, Rikkyo University
Department of Psychology, University of Western Ontario
School of Health Sciences, Sapporo Medical University
Address for correspondence: Mariko Nakayama, Department of Psychology, Rikkyo University, 1-2-26 Kitano, Niza, Saitama,


The main fact that is currently known about the nature of masked L2-L1 noncognate translation priming effects in the lexical decision task is simply that those effects are significant in some studies but not in others. In an effort to better understand these effects, we examined the data pattern for very proficient Japanese–English bilinguals using RT distributional analyses. We also examined the impacts of prime and target frequency on the priming effect. Significant priming was present even on the fastest trials, becoming larger on slower trials. Nonetheless, priming effects were generally constant across prime and target frequency with the only exception being when very high frequency L2 primes were used. In that situation, priming and target frequency were negatively related, a result that essentially produced the observed pattern of increasing priming on slower trials. Implications of these results and potential reasons for the presence/absence of L2-L1 priming effects are discussed.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2017 

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This research was supported by a grant from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) to Mariko Nakayama.


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