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Academic Paper

Title: Effects of Chinese word structure on object categorization in Chinese–English bilinguals
Author: Xuan Pan
Author: Debra Jared
Linguistic Field: Cognitive Science; Linguistic Theories; Morphology
Subject Language: Chinese, Mandarin
Abstract: We investigated how verbal labels affect object categorization in bilinguals. In English, most nouns do not provide linguistic clues to their categories (an exception is sunflower), whereas in Chinese, some nouns provide category information morphologically (e.g., 鸵鸟- ostrich and 知更鸟- robin have the morpheme鸟- bird in their Chinese names), while some nouns do not (e.g., 企鹅- penguin and 鸽子- pigeon). We examined the effect of Chinese word structure on bilinguals’ categorization processes in two ERP experiments. Chinese–English bilinguals and English monolinguals judged the membership of atypical (e.g., ostrich, penguin) vs. typical (e.g., robin, pigeon) pictorial (Experiment 1) and English word (Experiment 2) exemplars of categories (e.g., bird). English monolinguals showed typicality effects in RT data, and in the N300 and N400 of ERP data, regardless of whether the object name had a category cue in Chinese. In contrast, Chinese–English bilinguals showed a larger typicality effect for objects without category cues in their name than objects with cues, even when they were tested in English. These results demonstrate that linguistic information in bilinguals’ L1 has an effect on their L2 categorization processes. The findings are explained using the label-feedback hypothesis.


This article appears IN Language and Cognition Vol. 12, Issue 3, which you can READ on Cambridge's site .

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