Sentence interpretation in bilingual speakers of English and Chinese

Hua Liu, Elizabeth Bates, Ping Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

104 Scopus citations


This study examines patterns of transfer in the sentence processing strategies displayed by Chinese-English and English–Chinese bilinguals. Our results indicate that late bilinguals display strong evidence for forward transfer: late Chinese–English bilinguals transfer animacybased strategies to English sentences; late English–Chinese bilinguals transfer English-like word order strategies to Chinese. Early bilinguals display a variety of transfer patterns, including differentiation (use of animacy strategies in Chinese and word order strategies in English) and backward transfer (use of L2 processing strategies in L1, a possible symptom of language loss). These unusual transfer patterns reflect a complex interaction of variables, including age of exposure to L2 and patterns of daily language use. Implications of these findings for the critical period hypothesis are discussed, together with some new hypotheses concerning the interaction between acquisition of L2 and maintenance of L1.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)451-484
Number of pages34
JournalApplied Psycholinguistics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1992

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Psychology(all)


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