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Electrophysiological Evidence for a Whorfian Double Dissociation of Categorical Perception Across Two Languages: Categorical Perception Within and Across Languages

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>10/05/2024
<mark>Journal</mark>Language Learning
Issue numberS1
Pages (from-to)136-156
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date10/05/24
<mark>Original language</mark>English


AbstractTaza in Spanish refers to cups and mugs in English, whereas glass refers to different glass types in Spanish: copa and vaso. It is still unclear whether such categorical distinctions induce early perceptual differences in speakers of different languages. In this study, for the first time, we report symmetrical effects of terminology on preattentive indices of categorical perception across languages. Native speakers of English or Spanish saw arrays of cups, mugs, copas, and vasos flashed in streams. Visual mismatch negativity, an implicit electrophysiological correlate of perceptual change in the peripheral visual field, was modulated for categorical contrasts marked in the participants’ native language but not for objects designated by the same label. Conversely, P3a, an index of attentional orienting, was modulated only for missing contrasts in the participants’ native language. Thus, whereas native labels influenced participants’ preattentive perceptual encoding of objects, nonverbally encoded dissociations reoriented their attention at a later processing stage.