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Cross-linguistic similarity norms for Japanese-English translation equivalents

Allen, David; Conklin, Kathy


David Allen


Formal and semantic overlap across languages plays an important role in bilingual language processing systems. In the present study, Japanese (first language; L1)-English (second language; L2) bilinguals rated 193 Japanese-English word pairs, including cognates and noncognates, in terms of phonological and semantic similarity. We show that the degree of cross-linguistic overlap varies, such that words can be more or less "cognate," in terms of their phonological and semantic overlap. Bilinguals also translated these words in both directions (L1-L2 and L2-L1), providing a measure of translation equivalency. Notably, we reveal for the first time that Japanese-English cognates are "special," in the sense that they are usually translated using one English term (e.g., (chinese source)/kooru/ is always translated as "call"), but the English word is translated into a greater variety of Japanese words. This difference in translation equivalency likely extends to other nonetymologically related, different-script languages in which cognates are all loanwords (e.g., Korean-English). Norming data were also collected for L1 age of acquisition, L1 concreteness, and L2 familiarity, because such information had been unavailable for the item set. Additional information on L1/L2 word frequency, L1/L2 number of senses, and L1/L2 word length and number of syllables is also provided. Finally, correlations and characteristics of the cognate and noncognate items are detailed, so as to provide a complete overview of the lexical and semantic characteristics of the stimuli. This creates a comprehensive bilingual data set for these different-script languages and should be of use in bilingual word recognition and spoken language research. © 2013 Psychonomic Society, Inc.


Allen, D., & Conklin, K. (2014). Cross-linguistic similarity norms for Japanese-English translation equivalents. Behavior Research Methods, 46, 540-563.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Sep 18, 2013
Publication Date 2014-06
Deposit Date Apr 15, 2014
Publicly Available Date Apr 15, 2014
Journal Behavior Research Methods
Print ISSN 1554-351X
Electronic ISSN 1554-3528
Publisher Springer Verlag
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 46
Pages 540-563
Keywords Bilingual, Cross-linguistic similarity, Cognates, Japanese
Public URL
Publisher URL


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