Journal of Psycholinguistic Research

, Volume 45, Issue 5, pp 1219–1245 | Cite as

Multiple Translations in Bilingual Memory: Processing Differences Across Concrete, Abstract, and Emotion Words

  • Dana M. Basnight-BrownEmail author
  • Jeanette Altarriba


Historically, the manner in which translation ambiguity and emotional content are represented in bilingual memory have often been ignored in many theoretical and empirical investigations, resulting in these linguistic factors related to bilingualism being absent from even the most promising models of bilingual memory representation. However, in recent years it was reported that the number of translations a word has across languages influences the speed with which bilinguals translate concrete and abstract words from one language into another (Tokowicz and Kroll in Lang Cogn Process 22:727–779, 2007). The current work examines how the number of translations that characterize a word influences bilingual lexical organization and the processing of concrete, abstract, and emotional stimuli. In Experiment 1, Spanish-English bilinguals translated concrete and abstract words with one and more than one translation. As reported by Tokowicz and Kroll, concreteness effects emerged only when words had more than one translation across languages. In Experiment 2, bilinguals translated emotion words with more than one translation. Concreteness effects emerged in both language directions for words with more than one translation, and in the L1–L2 language direction for words with a single translation across languages. These findings are discussed in terms of how multiple translations, specifically for emotion words, might be incorporated into current models of bilingual memory representation.


Bilingualism Multiple translations Working memory Concrete  Abstract Emotion 


  1. Altarriba, J. (2003). Does cariño equal “liking”? A theoretical approach to conceptual nonequivalence between languages. International Journal of Bilingualism, 7, 305–322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Altarriba, J., & Basnight-Brown, D. M. (2007). Methodological considerations in performing semantic and translation priming experiments across languages. Behavior Research Methods, 39, 1–18.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Altarriba, J., & Basnight-Brown, D. M. (2011). The representation of emotion versus emotion-laden words in English and Spanish in the affective simon task. International Journal of Bilingualism, 15, 310–328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Altarriba, J., & Bauer, L. (2004). The distinctiveness of emotion concepts: A comparison between emotion, abstract, and concrete words. American Journal of Psychology, 117, 389–410.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Altarriba, J., Bauer, L. M., & Benvenuto, C. (1999). Concreteness, context-availability, and imageability ratings and word associations for abstract, concrete, and emotion words. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, & Computers, 31, 578–602.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Anooshian, L. J., & Hertel, P. T. (1994). Emotionality in free recall: Language specificity in bilingual memory. Cognition and Emotion, 8, 503–514.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Balota, D. A., Yap, M. J., Cortese, M. J., Hutchinson, K. A., Kessler, B., Loftis, B., et al. (2007). The english lexicon project. Behavior Research Methods, 39, 445–459.Google Scholar
  8. Basnight-Brown, D. M. (2014). Models of lexical access and bilingualism. In J. Altarriba & R. Heredia (Eds.), Foundations of bilingual memory (pp. 85–107). New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Basnight-Brown, D. M., & Altarriba, J. (2007). Differences in semantic and translation priming across languages: The role of language direction and language dominance. Memory & Cognition, 35, 953–965.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Basnight-Brown, D. M., & Altarriba, J. (2014). Number of translation differences in Spanish and Chinese bilinguals: The difficulty in finding a direct translation for emotion words. In S. Cooper & K. Ratele (Eds.), Psychology serving humanity (Vol. II, pp. 240–251). New York: Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
  11. Basnight-Brown, D. M., Chen, H., Hua, S., Kostic, A., & Feldman, L. B. (2007). Monolingual and bilingual recognition of regular and irregular English verbs: Does sensitivity to orthographic similarity vary with language experience? Journal of Memory and Language, 57, 65–80.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  12. Bleasdale, F. A. (1987). Concreteness dependent associative priming: Separate lexical organization for concrete and abstract words. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 13, 582–594.Google Scholar
  13. Bradley, M.M., & Lang, P.J. (1999). Affective norms for English words (ANEW). Gainesville, FL: The NIMH Center for the Study of Emotion and Attention, University of Florida.Google Scholar
  14. Brysbaert, M., & Duyck, W. (2010). Is it time to leave behind the revised hierarchical model of bilingual language activation after 15 years of service? Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 13, 359–371.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Crutch, S. J., & Warrington, E. K. (2005). Abstract and concrete concepts have structurally different representational frameworks. Brain, 128, 615–627.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. de Groot, A. M. B. (1989). Representational aspects of word imageability and word frequency as accessed through word association. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 15, 824–845.Google Scholar
  17. de Groot, A. M. B. (1992). Determinants of word translation. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 18, 1001–1018.Google Scholar
  18. Degani, T., & Tokowicz, N. (2010a). Ambiguous words are harder to learn. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 13, 299–314.Google Scholar
  19. Degani, T., & Tokowicz, N. (2010b). Semantic ambiguity within and across languages: An integrative review. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 63, 1266–1303.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Degani, T., & Tokowicz, N. (2013). Cross-language influences: Translation status affects intraword sense relatedness. Memory and Cognition, 41, 1046–1064.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Degani, T., Prior, A., & Tokowicz, N. (2011). Bidirectional transfer: The effect of sharing a translation. European Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 23, 18–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Dijkstra, T., & Rekké, S. (2010). Towards a localist-connectionist model of word translation. The Mental Lexicon, 5, 403–422.Google Scholar
  23. Duñabeitia, J. A., Avilés, A., Afonso, O., Scheepers, C., & Carreiras, M. (2009). Qualitative differences in the representation of abstract versus concrete words: Evidence from the visual-world paradigm. Cognition, 110, 284–292.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Duyck, W., & Brysbaert, M. (2004). Forward and backward number translation requires conceptual mediation both in balanced and unbalanced bilinguals. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 30, 889–906.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Easterbrook, J. A. (1959). The effect of emotion on cue utilization and the organization of behavior. Psychological Review, 66, 187–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Eilola, T. M., Havelka, J., & Sharma, D. (2007). Emotional activation in the first and second language. Cognition and Emotion, 21, 1064–1076.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Francis, W. N., & Kučera, H. (1982). Frequency analysis of English usage: Lexicon and grammar. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
  28. Heredia, R. R. (1997). Bilingual memory and hierarchical models: A case for language dominance. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 6, 34–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Jiang, N. (2002). Form-meaning mapping in vocabulary acquisition in a second language. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 24, 617–637.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Knickerbocker, H., & Altarriba, J. (2011). Bilingualism and the impact of emotion: The role of experience, memory, and sociolinguistic factors. In V. Cook & B. Bassetti (Eds.), Language and bilingual cognition (pp. 453–477). London: Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
  31. Kroll, J. F., & Merves, J. S. (1986). Lexical access for concrete and abstract words. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 12, 92–107.Google Scholar
  32. Kroll, J. F., & Stewart, E. (1994). Category interference in translation and picture naming: Evidence for asymmetric connections between bilingual memory representations. Journal of Memory and Language, 33, 149–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Larsen, R. J., Mercer, K. A., Balota, D. A., & Strube, M. J. (2008). Not all negative words slow down lexical decision and naming speed: Importance of word arousal. Emotion, 8, 445–452.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Laxén, J., & Lavaur, J.-M. (2010). The role of semantics in translation recognition: Effects of number of translations, dominance of translations and semantic relatedness of multiple translations. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 13, 157–183.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Marian, V., & Kaushanskaya, M. (2004). Self-construal and emotion in bicultural bilinguals. Journal of Memory and Language, 51, 190–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Marian, V., & Neisser, U. (2000). Language-dependent recall of autobiographical memories. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 129, 361–368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Paivio, A. (1986). Mental representations: A dual coding approach. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Pavlenko, A. (2005). Emotions and multilingualism. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Pavlenko, A. (2008). Emotion and emotion-laden words in the bilingual lexicon. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 11, 147–164.Google Scholar
  40. Potter, M. C., So, K. F., Von Eckardt, B., & Feldman, L. B. (1984). Lexical and conceptual representation in beginning and proficient bilinguals. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 23, 23–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Prior, A., Kroll, J. F., & MacWhinney, B. (2013). Translation ambiguity but not world class predicts translation performance. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 16, 458–474.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Prior, A., MacWhinney, B., & Kroll, J. F. (2007). Translations norms for English and Spanish: The role of lexical variables, word class, and L2 proficiency in negotiating translation ambiguity. Behavior Research Methods, 39, 1029–1038.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  43. Schrauf, R., & Rubin, D. (2000). Internal languages of retrieval: The bilingual encoding of memories for the personal past. Memory & Cognition, 28, 616–623.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Schwanenflugel, P. J., Akin, C., & Luh, W.-M. (1992). Context availability and the recall of abstract and concrete words. Memory & Cognition, 20, 96–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Sholl, A., Sankaranarayanan, A., & Kroll, J. (1995). Transfer between picture naming and translation: A test of asymmetries in bilingual memory. Psychological Science, 6, 45–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Smith, M. C. (1991). On the recruitment of semantic information for word fragment completion: Evidence from bilingual priming. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, 17, 234–244.Google Scholar
  47. Snodgrass, J. G., & Vanderwart, M. (1980). A standardized set of 260 pictures: Norms for name agreement, image agreement, familiarity, and visual complexity. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Learning and Memory, 6, 121–174.Google Scholar
  48. Sutton, T. M., Altarriba, J., Gianico, J. L., & Basnight-Brown, D. M. (2007). The automatic access of emotion: Emotional Stroop effects in Spanish-English bilingual speakers. Cognition and Emotion, 21, 1077–1090.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Tokowicz, N., & Kroll, J. F. (2007). Number of meanings and concreteness: Consequences of ambiguity within and across languages. Language and Cognitive Processes, 22, 727–779.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Tokowicz, N., Kroll, J. F., de Groot, A. M. B., & van Hell, J. G. (2002). Number of translation norms for Dutch-English translation pairs: A new tool for examining language production. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, & Computers, 34, 435–451.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Unsworth, N., Heitz, R. P., Schrock, J. C., & Engle, R. W. (2005). An automated version of the operation span task. Behavior Research Methods, 37, 498–505.Google Scholar
  52. van Hell, J. G., & de Groot, A. M. B. (1998). Conceptual representation in bilingual memory: Effects of concreteness and cognate status in word association. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 1, 193–211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. van Hell, J. G., & Kroll, J. F. (2011). Using electrophysiological measures to track the mappings of words to concepts in the bilingual brain: A focus on translation. In J. Altarriba & L. Isurin (Eds.), Memory, language, and bilingualism: Theoretical and applied approaches (pp. 126–160). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University at Albany, State University of New YorkAlbanyUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUnited States International UniversityNairobiKenya

Personalised recommendations