Cross-language semantic influences in different script bilinguals

Tamar Degani, Anat Prior, Walaa Hajajra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The current study examined automatic activation and semantic influences from the non-target language of different-script bilinguals during visual word processing. Thirty-four Arabic-Hebrew bilinguals and 34 native Hebrew controls performed a semantic relatedness task on visually presented Hebrew word pairs. In one type of critical trials, cognate primes between Arabic and Hebrew preceded related Hebrew target words. In a second type, false-cognate primes preceded Hebrew targets related to the Arabic meaning (but not the Hebrew meaning) of the false-cognate. Although Hebrew orthography is a fully reliable cue of language membership, facilitation on cognate trials and interference on false-cognate trials were observed for Arabic-Hebrew bilinguals. The activation of the non-target language was sufficient to influence participants' semantic decisions in the target language, demonstrating simultaneous activation of both languages even for different-script bilinguals in a single language context. To discuss the findings we refine existing models of bilingual processing to accommodate different-script bilinguals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)782-804
Number of pages23
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by EU-FP7 grant CIG-322016 to TD.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Cambridge University Press.


  • cognates
  • cross-language influences
  • different-script bilinguals
  • false-cognates
  • semantic influences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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