This study examined how noun reading by bilinguals is influenced by orthographic similarity with their translation equivalents in another language. Eye movements of Dutch–English bilinguals reading an entire novel in L1 and L2 were analyzed.
In L2, we found a facilitatory effect of orthographic overlap. Additional facilitation for identical cognates was found for later eye movement measures. This shows that the complex, semantic context of a novel does not eliminate cross-lingual activation in natural reading.
In L1 we detected non-identical cognate facilitation for first fixation durations of longer nouns. Identical cognate facilitation was found on total reading times for high frequent nouns. This study is the first to show cognate facilitation in L1 reading of narrative text. This shows that even when reading a novel in the mother tongue, lexical access is not restricted to the target language.