- Attraction between words as a function of frequency and representational distance: words in the bilingual brain
- Volume | Issue number
- 54 | 6
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
- Amsterdam Center for Language and Communication (ACLC)
Bilingual speakers store cognates from related languages close together in their mental lexicon. In the case of minority languages, words from the dominant language often exert influence on their cognates in the minority language. In this article, we present a model describing that influence as a function of frequency and of (dis)similarity (representational distance). More specifically, it is claimed that the strength of the influence of one word upon another is (among others) a function of their frequencies divided by their formal dissimilarity. The model is applied to the distribution of nouns derived from adjectives in Frisian, where the suffix - ens competes with - heid. Of these two suffixes, Frisian - heid is similar to Dutch - heid, whereas Frisian - ens does not have a similar counterpart in Dutch. The model predicts that Frisian derived nouns of which the adjectival bases are similar in form and meaning to Dutch will occur more often with - heid and less often with - ens. It also predicts that this effect will be stronger as the words involved are more frequent. Our findings make it possible to verify the model's quantification of the influence of Dutch words on their cognates.
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