Hemispheric involvement in native and non-native comprehension of conventional metaphors

Nira Mashal*, Katy Borodkin, Omer Maliniak, Miriam Faust

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


The present study examined hemispheric processing of conventional metaphors in native (L1) and non-native (L2) language using the divided visual field technique. Participants included 25 native Hebrew speakers and 24 bilinguals who acquired English as L1 and Hebrew as L2. In Experiment 1, the two groups performed a semantic judgment task on conventional metaphors and literal Hebrew word pairs, and in Experiment 2, the processing of the expressions was compared between the two L1s. The results of the two experiments demonstrated a left hemisphere advantage for processing conventional metaphoric expressions in L1, but a right hemisphere advantage for processing the same kind of stimuli in L2. No such L1-L2 difference in hemispheric involvement was observed for literal word pairs. These results support the Fine-Coarse Semantic Coding Theory and the Graded Salience Hypothesis and suggest that the metaphoric meanings of conventional metaphors may appear less salient for a non-native speaker.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)96-108
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neurolinguistics
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Bilingualism
  • Conventional metaphors
  • Right hemisphere
  • Salient meanings
  • Second language


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