Volume 6, Issue 3
  • ISSN 1879-9264
  • E-ISSN: 1879-9272
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Ambiguity in translation is highly prevalent, and has consequences for second-language learning and for bilingual lexical processing. To better understand this phenomenon, the current study compared the determinants of translation ambiguity across four sets of translation norms from English to Spanish, Dutch, German and Hebrew. The number of translations an English word received was correlated across these different languages, and was also correlated with the number of senses the word has in English, demonstrating that translation ambiguity is partially determined by within-language semantic ambiguity. For semantically-ambiguous English words, the probability of the different translations in Spanish and Hebrew was predicted by the meaning-dominance structure in English, beyond the influence of other lexical and semantic factors, for bilinguals translating from their L1, and translating from their L2. These findings are consistent with models postulating direct access to meaning from L2 words for moderately-proficient bilinguals.


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