Most research on cognates has focused on words presented in isolation that are easily defined as cognate between L1 and L2. In contrast, this study investigates what counts as cognate in authentic texts and how such cognates are read. Participants with L1 Danish read news articles in their highly proficient L2, English, while their eye-movements were monitored. The experiment shows a cognate advantage for morphologically simple words, but only when cognateness is defined relative to translation equivalents that are appropriate in the context. For morphologically complex words, a cognate disadvantage is observed which may be due to problems of integrating cognate with non-cognate morphemes. The results show that fast non-selective access to the bilingual lexicon is conditioned by the communicative context. Importantly, a range of variables are statistically controlled in the regression analyses, including word predictability indexed by the conditional probability of each word.
Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 2013, Vol 16, Issue 3, p. 1-17