Bidirectional transfer: The effect of sharing a translation

Tamar Degani, Anat Prior, Natasha Tokowicz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study investigated reciprocal influences between the first and second languages of bilingual speakers. Participants were monolingual English speakers and bilingual speakers of English and Hebrew who learned Hebrew either as a first language or as a second language. Participants rated the semantic similarity of English word pairs that either shared a Hebrew translation or did not, and that varied in their baseline relatedness in English. Shared-translation pairs (e.g., tool and dish are both translated as "kli" in Hebrew) were rated as more similar in meaning than different-translation pairs by both bilingual groups, but not by the monolinguals. Knowledge of Hebrew influenced the way bilinguals processed words in English not only when Hebrew was the native language but also when it was learned as a second language later in life. These findings provide evidence for bidirectional transfer, and emphasise the dynamic nature of the bilingual lexicon.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-28
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Cognitive Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Correspondence should be addressed to Natasha Tokowicz, Learning Research & Development Center, 3939 O’Hara St., Room 634, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA. E-mail: We thank the University of Pittsburgh’s PLUM Lab for assistance, and Marnie Arkenberg, Dana Basnight-Brown, Jon Andoni Duñabeitia, Peter Gianaros, Nan Jiang, Erik Reichle, Leida Tolentino, and Tessa Warren for comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. During the writing of this manuscript, AP was funded by NRSA-F32HD049255 and NT and TD were funded by NSF-BCS-0745372. A version of this research was presented at the Sixth International Symposium on Bilingualism in Hamburg, Germany.


  • Bilingualism
  • Semantic similarity
  • Semantic transfer
  • Shared-translation effect
  • Translation ambiguity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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