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

Tytus, A. E.

University of Mannheim, Germany

A growing number of multilingual speakers poses an interesting question to the way in which multiple languages are represented in the memory of a language user. The bilingual memory models, e.g. the Revised Hierarchical Model (Kroll & Stewart, 1994) or the Sense Model (Finkbeiner et al., 2004) skillfully capture the prediction regarding two languages, with the lexical level being separate and the conceptual level being distributed to a varied degree. In this study, we employed a masked priming paradigm in the form of an animacy decision task to address the conceptual representation of trilingual German, English, French speakers. The comparison of reaction times and error rates has revealed that priming effects have been observed from the more dominant language direction to less dominant ones (L1-L2, L1-L3, and L2-L3); however, no priming has been demonstrated in the opposite language directions. This result is in line with the priming asymmetry hypothesis (Jiang, 1999). The findings obtained in this study served as a ground for introducing a modification/extension to the Shared Asymmetrical Model (Dong et al., 2005). To the best of our knowledge this study is the first attempt of trying to model trilingual lexical memory.