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Original scientific paper

Kristina Cergol, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Faculty of Teacher Education, University of Zagreb



Cognates are translation equivalents which share similarity of form across languages (e.g.
Cro. problem and Eng. problem). In relation to non–cognates, bilingual speakers have
been shown to react to cognates faster (cognate facilitation effect) in the lexical decision
task, and slower (cognate inhibition effect) in the language decision task. Postulates of
the Bilingual Interactive Activation model + (BIA+) (Dijkstra & van Heuven, 2002) are
used in the formulation of hypotheses and the explanation of results in this study. The
cognate facilitation effect in the lexical decision task may be accounted for in the BIA+
model by suggesting increased semantic activation levels in cognate processing as opposed
to non–cognate processing which occurs due to the shared characteristics of the items
belonging to a cognate pair (Lemhöfer & Dijkstra, 2004). In this study, cognate processing
of a group of Croatian speakers of Global English is investigated by means of a lexical
decision task. Croatian speakers of Global English use the English language (which is
not their mother tongue) on a daily basis in some aspect of their lives (work, academia,
international communication) as well as in their pastime. As English is used as the lingua
franca of the modern business world and education, and the number of speakers of Global
English is on the rise in Croatia, their language processing needs to be examined and
represented in the models of language processing.
In the analysis the interaction of the following independent variables was investigated:
language (Croatian / English), word type (word / pseudoword), and cognateness (cognate
/ non–cognate). The analysis of variance showed a significant triple interaction of language,
word type and cognateness. The opposite cognate effect was found in reactions to
Croatian cognates as reaction times to Croatian cognates were slower than reaction times
to Croatian non–cognates. There was no effect of cognateness found in reaction times to
English words and pseudowords, and Croatian pseudowords.
On the basis of the results of this study, an adaptation of the BIA+ model was laid
out so as to accommodate the findings related to cognate processing in Croatian speakers
of Global English. The significant additions to the BIA+ model involve lateral inhibition
of the cognates within the same processing levels, lateral inhibition at the language level
which results in the necessity of the participants to perform a language decision prior
to performing the lexical decision, and inhibitory influence of the activation of the less
proficient language on the mother tongue activation which is reflected in the mother
tongue inhibition in the processing.


Key words

cognates (lexicology), Global English, Croatian, bilingualism, Bilingual Interactive Activation + model


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