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Asymmetrical Priming Effects: An Exploration of Trilingual German–English–French Lexico-Semantic Memory


The growing number of multilingual speakers poses an interesting question as to the way in which three or more languages are represented in the memory of a language user. The Revised Hierarchical Model (Kroll and Stewart in J Mem Lang 33: 149–174, 1994) or the Sense Model (Finkbeiner et al. in J Mem Lang 51(1), 1–22, 2004) skillfully capture the prediction regarding two languages, with the lexical level being separate and the conceptual one being unified or distributed to a varying degree. In this set of experiments, we employed primed animacy decision tasks to address the lexico-semantic representation of trilingual German–English–French speakers. The comparison of reaction times has revealed priming effects from L1 to L2 and from L2 to L1, both with prime duration of 100 and 50 ms; a priming asymmetry effect between the L2 and L3 language directions; and no interaction between L1 and L3. The aggregated findings point to a hybrid representation, with both compound and coordinate representations being possible.

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Correspondence to Agnieszka Ewa Tytus.


Appendix 1: List of Stimuli

Animate Inanimate
English German French English German French
Painter Maler peintre Garage Werkstatt atelier
Pig Schwein cochon Pocket Tasche poche
Deer Hirsch cerf Table Tisch table
Bird Vogel oiseau Chair Stuhl chaise
Salesman Verkäufer vendeur Bottle Flasche bouteille
Servant Diener servant Window Fenster fenêtre
Surgeon Chirurg chirugien Belt Gürtel ceinture
Tailor Schneider couturier Scarf Schal écharpe
Translator Übersetzer traducteur Dress Kleid robe
Aunt Tante tante Glasses Brille lunettes
Plumber Klempner plombier Stationery Schreibwaren fournitures
Poet Dichter poète Mirror Spiegel miroir
Hairdresser Friseur coiffeur Door Tür porte
Butterfly Schmetterling papillon Shop Geschäft magasin
Farmer Landwirt agriculteur Barne Scheune grange
Lawyer Rechtsanwalt avocat Jewelry Schmuck bijoux
Lecutrer Dozent conférencier Necklace Halskette collier
Squirrel Eichhörnchen écureuil Armchair Sessel fauteuil
Caterpillar Raupe chenille Closet Schrank placard
Landlord Vermieter propriétaire Present Geschenk cadeau
Monkey Affe singe Pillow Kissen oreiller
Woman Frau femme Rubber Gummi caoutchouc
Maid Dienstmädchen domestique Stamp Briefmarke timbre
Director Regisseur réalisateur Roof Dach toit
Animal Tier animal Stone Stein caillou
Dentist Zahnarzt dentiste Map Landkarte carte
Lion Löwe lion Coat Mantel manteau
Lobster Hummer homard Piano Klavier piano
Cild Kind enfant Castle Burg château
Eagel Adler aigle Doll Puppe poupée
Lizard Eidechse lézard Train Zug train
Artist Künstler artiste Bench Bank banc
Butcher Metzger boucher Button Knopf bouton
Explorer Forscher chercheur Carpet Teppich tapis
Pharmacist Apotheker pharmacien Folder Ordner dossier
Inventor Erfinder inventeur Swing Schaukel escarpolette
Hunter Jäger chasseur Court Gericht tribunal
Warden Aufseher gardien Jail Gefängnis prison
Waiter Kellner serveur Station Bahnhof gare
Boy Junge garçon Tights Strumpfhose collant
Queen Königin reine Glove Handschuh gant
Shark Hai requin Skirt Rock jupe
Donkey Esel âne Shirt Hemd chemise
Snail Schnecke escargot Towel Handtuch serviette
Turkey Truthahn dinde Box Kiste boîte
Seal Seehund phoque Key Schlüssel clé
Drummer Trommler batteur Floor Boden sol
Chick Küken poussin Pen Stift stylo
Doctor Arzt médecin Library Bücherei bibliothèque
Driver Fahrer conducteur Church Kirche église
Sailor Matrose marin Suit Anzug costume
Mailman Postbote facteur Clothes Kleidung vêtements
Accountant Buchhalter comptable Shelf Regal étagère
Horse Pferd cheval Stool Hocker tabouret
Duck Ente canard Curtain Vorhang rideau
Husband Ehemann mari Desk Schreibtisch bureau
Human Mensch personne Clock Uhr pendule
Player Spieler joueur Bucket Eimer seau
Hedgehog Igel hérisson Bicycle Fahrrad vélo
Cockroach Kakerlake cafard Pencil Bleistift crayon
Wife Ehefrau épouse Game Spiel jeu
Groom Bräutigam marié Car Auto voiture
Diver Taucher plongeur Plane Flugzeug avion
Teacher Lehrer professeur Plate Teller assiette
Adviser Berater conseiller Beach Strand plage
Rabbit Hase lapin Glue Kleber colle
Goat Ziege chèvre Viola Bratsche alto
Puppy Welpe chiot Tray Tablett plateau
Ant Ameise fourmi Watch Armbanduhr montre
Piglet Ferkel porcelet Sink Spüle évier
Singer Sänger chanteur Spoon Löffel cuillère
Student Schüler étudiant Umbrella Regenschirm parapluie

Appendix 2: Language Background Questionnaire

The questionnaire was administered in German, here we provide an English translation of the questions that were used.

  1. 1.

    How old are you?

  2. 2.

    Are you male or female?

  3. 3.

    Which program of study do you follow?


  4. 4.

    Where were you born?

  5. 5.

    Which languages do you speak?

  6. 6.

    In which order have you learnt your languages?

  7. 7.

    How old were you when you started learning English/French?

  8. 8.

    Where have you learnt English/French?


  9. 9.

    Is one of your languages more dominant than other?


  10. 10.

    If yes, which one is it?

  11. 11.

    In what kind of context do you use German/English/French?


  12. 12.

    How often do you use German/English/French?


  13. 13.

    How confident do you feel using German/English/French?

    Not at all confident/Very confident

  14. 14.

    How would you evaluate the following language skills: speaking, writing, reading, hearing, use of grammar in German/English/French?

    Very weak/Very strong

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Tytus, A.E. Asymmetrical Priming Effects: An Exploration of Trilingual German–English–French Lexico-Semantic Memory. J Psycholinguist Res 46, 1625–1644 (2017).

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  • Priming
  • Priming asymmetry
  • Trilingualism
  • Concepts
  • Lexico-semantic memory