Lexical and conceptual processing in Chinese-English bilinguals: Further evidence for asymmetry

Him CHEUNG, Hsuan-Chih CHEN

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

24 Citations (Scopus)


According to the asymmetry model of bilingual representation (Kroll and Stewart, 1994), the first language (L1) lexicon is closely tied to an underlying conceptual memory, whereas second language (L2) items are mostly associated with their L1 equivalents. An outcome of this architecture is that L1-to-L2, or forward, translation must be mediated by the conceptual memory, whereas L2-to-L1 (backward) translation takes a direct lexical path. Some predictions derived from this hypothetical structure were tested in the present study, which took into account, through analysis of covariance, variations in response production time, concept retrieval time, and some other characteristics associated with the individual test items. Proficient Chinese-English bilinguals were tested on delayed production (Balota and Chumbley, 1985), picture naming, word translation, and category matching. The expected asymmetrical pattern of translation latencies (i.e., forward > backward) was demonstrated, although it could be statistically explained by the item characteristic of familiarity; matching an L1 item to a category name was faster than matching an L2 item, suggesting relatively strong L1 conceptual links. The present results are best accommodated by a form of asymmetry that allows for nondominant L2-concept linkage, the use of which is conditional upon the familiarity of the test item to the bilingual. Copyright © 1998 Psychonomic Society, Inc.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1002-1013
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1998


Recognition (Psychology)


Cheung, H., & Chen, H.-C. (1998). Lexical and conceptual processing in Chinese-English bilinguals: Further evidence for asymmetry. Memory & Cognition, 26(5), 1002–1013. doi: 10.3758/BF03201179


  • Picture naming
  • Forward translation
  • Category match
  • Context availability
  • Conceptual memory