Sensorimotor semantic processing differentially facilitates the recognition of native and second language words

Research output: Contribution to conferencesPosterContributed



Whereas native languages (L1) are learned implicitly in natural environments, second languages (L2) are typically acquired explicitly in classroom settings. Differences in the ways in which L1 and L2 are attained may lead to differences in the extent to which sensorimotor systems contribute to L1 and L2 comprehension. Here we tested whether semantic motor associations are routinely activated during L1 and L2 word processing. A total of 210 German-English bilingual speakers completed a lexical decision task (Experiment 1) and a semantic decision task (Experiment 2) on visually-presented words in their L1 and L2 that were primed by auditorily-presented words. The prime and target words referred to objects that were related or unrelated in terms of the body movements used to manipulate the objects (e.g., piano-typewriter (related), binoculars-screwdriver (unrelated)). In both experiments, participants responded faster to related target words relative to unrelated target words in L2. No such priming effect was found for L1 words. The findings suggest that L2 semantic representations are linked with motoric features, consistent with embodied theories of language. Further, the activation of motor associations may be more advantageous for L2 than L1 word processing, consistent with asymmetric models of bilingual semantics.


Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2023


TitleArchitectures and Mechanisms for Language Processing 2023
Abbreviated titleAMLAP 2023
Conference number23
Duration31 August - 2 September 2023
Degree of recognitionInternational event
LocationKursaal Congress Centre
CityDonostia-San Sebastián

External IDs

ORCID /0000-0001-7989-5860/work/143782890