ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2013, Vol. 45 ›› Issue (3): 298-309.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2013.00298

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The Interaction of Semantic and Syntactic Information in Chinese–English Bilinguals’ Early Recognition of Polysemous Words

WANG Yue;ZHANG Jijia   

  1. (1 Center for Psychological Application, South China Normal University, Guangzhou 510631, China) (2 Departmemt of Psychology, Renmin University of China, Beijing 100873, China)
  • Received:2012-05-11 Published:2013-03-20 Online:2013-03-20
  • Contact: ZHANG Jijia

Abstract: Polysemy is an important linguistic phenomenon, and it appears widely in every language. The main issue of polysemy research includes whether there is semantic ambiguity advantage and its’ influencing factors. Studies of polysemy in bilingual research are few in number and are contradictory about polysemy recognition. This study, based on out-of-context condition, discussed the proficient Chinese-English bilinguals’ recognition process and relative factors using masked priming paradigm. Two experiments were involved: The influence of the dominant and non-dominant translation equivalence, syntactic category information and relatedness of translation equivalence were investigated in Experiment 1 with word decision task and English ambiguous words. The experimental procedure was classical masked priming procedure. Subjects were told to decide whether the word was true or not. All the participants were tested individually on computers. Reaction times for correct responses and error rates were analyzed by subject and item variance. Results showed a significant masked priming effect and semantic relatedness effect in English polysemous word recognition. Furthermore, when words were presented with their dominant translation, the recognition process was faster than when words were presented with their non -dominant translation. Experiment 2 was exactly the same with experiment1, except for the material. The aim of experiment 2 was to discuss how the above-mentioned factors influenced the Chinese ambiguous words. Surprisingly, the results were also similar with experiment1 despite the huge difference between Chinese and English ambiguous words. That is to say, We had observed the effect of dominance of translations and semantic relatedness of multiple translations. Responses were faster when the two translations of a word were related in meaning than when the two translations of a word were unrelated in meaning. It is well known that the distributed conceptual feature model has been proposed for bilingual memory. Our findings could also be explained in the light of this model with activated semantic nods. When it is dominant translation or two translations that are semantically related, it can increase the semantic overlap between target word and its translation equivalence. The difference between this research and previous study was that the syntactic information was activated in early stage of word recognition. We think this is due to the difference of experiments paradigm which reflected different process stage. Based on this research, the authors expand the Distributed Conceptual Feature Model to syntactic level.

Key words: Chinese-English bilinguals, masked priming, syntactic category ambiguous words, DCFM