Journal of Psycholinguistic Research

, Volume 40, Issue 1, pp 49-73

First online:

Bilingual Reading of Compound Words

  • In Yeong KoAffiliated withDepartment of Human Development, University of Maryland
  • , Min WangAffiliated withDepartment of Human Development, University of Maryland Email author 
  • , Say Young KimAffiliated withDepartment of Human Development, University of Maryland

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The present study investigated whether bilingual readers activate constituents of compound words in one language while processing compound words in the other language via decomposition. Two experiments using a lexical decision task were conducted with adult Korean-English bilingual readers. In Experiment 1, the lexical decision of real English compound words was more accurate when the translated compounds (the combination of the translation equivalents of the constituents) in Korean (the nontarget language) were real words than when they were nonwords. In Experiment 2, when the frequency of the second constituents of compound words in English (the target language) was manipulated, the effect of lexical status of the translated compounds was greater on the compounds with high-frequency second constituents than on those with low-frequency second constituents in the target language. Together, these results provided evidence for morphological decomposition and cross-language activation in bilingual reading of compound words.


Compound words Korean-English bilinguals Decomposition Cross-language activation