Translation of Ambiguous Words by Translation Trainees / Anlam Belirsizliği Olan Sözcüklerin Mütercim ve Tercümanlık Öğrencileri Tarafından Çevirisi

Filiz Mergen, Nihal Yetkin-Karakoç


Ambiguity has attracted the attention of researchers from many disciplines. With the aim of providing a perspective from translation, this psycholinguistic study investigated ambiguity in the translation performance of late bilinguals from English (L2) into Turkish (L1). We employed an oral translation task in which the participants (N= 51) translated 30 ambiguous words, (polysemes and homonyms) in contextualized sentences. First, we investigated whether word frequency affects the participants’ translation accuracy. We found no significant difference between high and low frequency words, which is attributable to the proficiency of the participants, and the facilitating role of sentential context. Secondly, we aimed to explore whether the nature of the ambiguous words made any difference to the participants’ translation performance. The results showed that polysemous words were translated with greater accuracy than homonymous words, in line with the data in the literature regarding the differences in the representation and processing of polysemy and homonymy.

Anahtar Kelimeler

Ambiguity, translation, polysemy, homonymy, psycholinguistics.

Tam Metin:



Armstrong, N. (2005). Translation, Linguistics, Culture: A French-English Handbook. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters Ltd.

Balota, D. A., & Spieler, D. H. (1999). Word frequency, repetition, and lexicality effects in word recognition tasks: Beyond measures of central tendency. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 128(1), 32-55.

Basnight-Brown, D., & Altarriba, J. (2007). Differences in semantic and translation priming across languages: The role of language direction and language dominance. Memory & Cognition, 35, 953–965.

Beretta, A., Fiorentino, R. & Poeppel, D. (2005). The effects of homonymy and polysemy on lexical access: an MEG study. Cognitive Brain Research, 24(1), 57-65.

Binder, K.S. (2003). Sentential and discourse topic effects on lexical ambiguity processing: An eye movements examination. Memory and Cognition, 31, 690-702.

Bradley, M.M. & Lang, P. J. (1999). Affective Norms for English Words (ANEW): Instruction Manual and Affective Ratings (Technical Report 1). The Center of Research in Psychophysiology: University of Florida.

Crystal, D. (1980). A First Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics. Oxford: Basil Blackwell Ltd. Retrieved from 300/docs /others/everything/ bradl ey1999a.pdf

De Groot, A.M.B & Poot, R. (1997). Word translation at three levels of proficiency in a second language: The ubiquitous involvement of conceptual memory. Language Learning, 47(2), 215-264.

Degani, T, Prior A., Eddington C. M., de luz Fontes, A. A. & Tokowicz, N. (2016). Determinants of translation ambiguity: a within and across language comparison. Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism, 6(3), 290-307.

Dijkstra, T. & van Heuven, W. T. B. (2002). The architecture of the bilingual word recognition system: from identification to decision. Bilingualism: Brain and Cognition, 5(3), 175 - 197.

Duyck, W., Vanderelst, D., Desmet, T. & Hartsuiker, R. J. (2008). The frequency effect in second-language visual word recognition. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 15(4), 850-855.

Elston-Güttler, K.E. & Williams, W. J. (2008). First language polysemy affects send language meaning interpretation: Evidence for activation of first language concepts during second language reading. Second Language Research, 24:167-187.

Foraker, S. & Murphy, G. L. (2012). Polysemy in sentence comprehension. Effects of meaning dominance. Journal of Memory and Language, 67, 407-425.

Frazier, L. & Rayner, K. (1990). Taking on semantic commitments: Processing multiple meanings vs. multiple senses. Journal of Memory and Language, 29, 181–200.

Ghazala, H. (1995). Translation as Problems and Solutions. Valeta (Malta): Elga Publication.

Gollan, T. H., Montoya, R. I, Cera, C. & Sandoval, T. C. (2008). More use almost always means a smaller frequency effect: Aging, bilingualism and the weaker links hypothesis, Journal of Memory and Language, 58(3), 787-814.

Ibrahim, A., Cowell, P.E., & Varley, R.A. (2017). Word frequency predicts translation asymmetry. Journal of Memory and Language, 95: 49-67.

Klein D. E. & Murphy, G.L. (2001). The representation of polysemous words. Journal of Memory and Language, 45, 259-282.

Klepousniotou, E. (2002). The processing of lexical ambiguity: Homonymy and polysemy in the mental lexicon. Brain and Language, 81, 205-223.

Klepousniotoua, E. & Baum, S. R. (2007). Disambiguating the ambiguity advantage effect in word recognition: An advantage for polysemous but not homonymous words. Journal of Neurolinguistics, 20, 1–24.

Kroll, J., F. & Stewart, E. (1994). Category interference in translation and picture naming for asymmetric connections between bilingual memory representations. Journal of Memory and Language, 33, 149-174.

Larsen, R. J., Kimberley, A., Mercer, K. A. & Balota, D. A. (2006). Lexical characteristics of words used in emotional stroop experiments. Emotion, 6(1), 62-72.

Lehtonen, M., Hulten, A., Rodriguez-Fornells, A, Cunillera,T., Tuomainen, J. & Laine, M. (2012). Differences in word recognition between early bilinguals and monolinguals: behavioral and ERP evidence. Neuropsychologia, 50(7), 1362-1371.

Macgregor, L.J, Bouwsema, J. & Klepousniotou, E. (2015). Sustained meaning activation for polysemous but not homonymous words: Evidence from EEG. Neuropsychologia, 68, 126-138.

Murph, M. L. & Koskela, A. (2010). Key Terms in Semantics. New York: Continuum.

Ortega-Andrés, M. & Vicente A. (2019). Polysemy and co-predication. Glossa: A Journal of General Linguistics, 4(1), 1–23.

Palmer. F. R. (1981). Semantics. Second Edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Paulin, C. & Bejoint, H. (2008). Introduction polysemy: contributions to the grammatical, lexicogenic and lexicographic study of the phenomenon. Lexis Journal. Issue 1. Retrieved from

Pavlenko, A. (1999). New approaches to concepts in bilingual memory. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 2(3): 209-230.

Pavlenko, A. (2014). The Bilingual Mind. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Piercey, C. D. & Joordens, S. (2000). Turning an advantage into a disadvantage: Ambiguity effects in lexical decision versus reading tasks. Memory & Cognition, 28, 657–666.

Prior A., Kroll J. F. & MacWhinney, B. (2013). Translation ambiguity but not word class predicts translation performance. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 16, 458–474.

Prior, A., MacWhinney, B. & Kroll, J. F. (2007). Translations norms for English and Spanish: The role of lexical variables, word class, and L2 proficiency in negotiating translation ambiguity. Behavior Research Methods, 39, 1029–1038.

Quiroga-Clare, C. (2003). Language ambiguity: a curse and a blessing. Translation Journal, 7(1). Retrieved from:

Rodd, J. M., Gaskell, M. G., & Marslen-Wilson, W. D. (2004). Modelling the effects of semantic ambiguity in word recognition. Cognitive Science, 28, 89–104.

Thomas, M. S. C. & van Heuven, W. J. B. (2005). Computational models of bilingual comprehension. In Kroll, J. F. & De Groot, A. M. B. (Eds). Handbook of bilingualism: psycholinguistic approaches (pp. 202-225). U.S.A.: Oxford University Press. Retrieved from http:// site.ebrary. com/lib/ ekonomi /Doc?id =10233717ppg=448

Tokowicz, N. & Degani, T. (2010). Translation ambiguity: Consequences for learning and processing. In B. Van Patten & J. Jegerski (Eds.), Research in second language and parsing (pp. 281-297). John Benjamins Publishing Company: Amsterdam /Philadelphia.

Tokowicz, N., Kroll, J. F., de Groot, A. M. B. & van Hell, J. G. (2002). Number-of-translation norms for Dutch-English translation pairs: A new tool for examining language production. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, & Computers, 34 (3): 435–451.

Yap, M. J. & Balota, D. A. (2009). Visual word recognition of multi-syllabic words. Journal of Memory and Language, 60 (4): 502-529.


  • Şu halde refbacks yoktur.

online sayaç