University of Twente Student Theses


Does the processing of metaphors depend on language proficiency in non-native speakers?

Busch, T. (2013) Does the processing of metaphors depend on language proficiency in non-native speakers?

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Abstract:The current study examined the relation between second language proficiency and neural processing in the context of metaphor processing. Subjects, a group of 18 German students at a Dutch university, had to judge sentences as metaphorical, literal or anomalous while their EEG activity was recorded. Language proficiency was defined as a combination of the score on a proficiency test, reaction times and by the accuracy with which subjects differentiated between the sentence conditions (d’). N400 negativity served as an indicator for the cognitive effort to semantically integrate the stimuli. The obtained results revealed that sentences in the metaphorical and anomalous conditions elicited more N400 negativity than the literal expressions. Reaction times were longest and choice accuracy the poorest in the metaphorical condition. The expectation that less proficient subjects displayed a delayed peak and decreased negativity of the N400 was not supported by the results; there was no statistical relation between language proficiency and N400 activity. The deployed language proficiency measures failed to capture the individual differences regarding language skills of the subject group. The results implicate that figurative and anomalous expressions are processed with increased effort and that metaphors take more time and are more difficult to identify than literal and anomalous expressions.
Item Type:Essay (Bachelor)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:77 psychology
Programme:Psychology BSc (56604)
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