Cross-linguistic similarity affects L2 cognate representation: blu vs. blue in Italian-English bilinguals

Paramei, Galina V. and D'Orsi, Mauro and Menegaz, Gloria (2016) Cross-linguistic similarity affects L2 cognate representation: blu vs. blue in Italian-English bilinguals. Journal of the International Colour Association, 16. pp. 69-81. ISSN 2227-1309

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In a psycholinguistic study we explored semantic shifts of focal colours for ‘blue’ terms in Italian-English bilinguals. Italian speakers require more than one basic colour term to name blue colours: blu ‘dark blue’ and azzurro ‘light/medium blue’; celeste ‘sky/light blue’ is salient, too [1-2]. Participants were Italian-English bilinguals residing in Liverpool (N=13). Their naming data, collected in two languages (L1, L2), were compared to those of Italian (N=13) and English (N=16) monolinguals. An unconstrained colour naming method was used to name each Munsell chip (M=237) embracing the BLUE area of colour space. Participants also indicated the best example focal colour) of blu, azzurro and celeste(Italian) or blue and light blue (English). Here we report two main findings: (i) Lightness shift: for the majority of the bilinguals, their L2 blue foci are semantically down-shifted towards L1 blu ‘dark blue’ foci. The semantic shift is thought to result from cross-linguistic similarity between the homophone Italian blu and English blue, facilitating asymmetric L1–L2 mediation in favour of the dominant language representation; (ii) Hue shift: proficient bilinguals revealed a hue shift of the L1 azzurro focus from azure, characteristic of Italian monolinguals, towards that of English monolinguals’ blue, with a purplish hint. The findings indicate Whorfian effects, or modulation of semantic-lexical representations, in proficient bilinguals immersed in L2 and, in addition, point to their integrated mental lexicon.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Colour naming Blue Focal colour shift Italian English Bilinguals Whorfian effect
Faculty / Department: Faculty of Science > Psychology
Depositing User: Galina Paramei
Date Deposited: 09 Sep 2016 11:16
Last Modified: 28 Jan 2018 15:32

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