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Three languages, one ECHO: Cognate effects in trilingual word recognition

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2004
<mark>Journal</mark>Language and Cognitive Processes
Issue number5
Number of pages27
Pages (from-to)585-611
Publication statusPublished
Original languageEnglish


Research on bilingual word recognition suggests that lexical access is non-selective with respect to language, i.e., that word representations of both languages become active during recognition. One piece of evidence is that bilinguals recognise cognates (words that are identical or similar in form and meaning in two languages) faster than non-cognates. The present study used cognates to investigate whether the non-selective access hypothesis holds also for trilinguals and three languages. Dutch-English-German trilinguals carried out a lexical decision task in their third language (German). The word materials included purely German control words, “double” cognates that overlapped in Dutch and German, but not in English, and “triple” cognates with the same form and meaning in Dutch, German, and English. Faster RTs were found for Dutch-German cognates than for control words, but additionally, “triple” cognates were processed even faster than “double” cognates. The “triple” cognate effect was not influenced by whether the participants had previously read an English text. A control experiment with German monolinguals confirmed that the effect was not an artifact of uncontrolled stimulus characteristics. Thus, independent of context, both the native language and another foreign non-target language influenced target language comprehension in trilinguals. This supports a view of language non-selective access implying all languages known to an individual may affect word activation and recognition.