When deaf signers read English: Do written words activate their sign translations?
Deaf bilinguals for whom American Sign Language (ASL) is the first language and English is the second language judged the semantic relatedness of word pairs in English. Critically, a subset of both the semantically related and unrelated word pairs were selected such that the translations of the two English words also had related forms in ASL. Word pairs that were semantically related were judged more quickly when the form of the ASL translation was also similar whereas word pairs that were semantically unrelated were judged more slowly when the form of the ASL translation was similar. A control group of hearing bilinguals without any knowledge of ASL produced an entirely different pattern of results. Taken together, these results constitute the first demonstration that deaf readers activate the ASL translations of written words under conditions in which the translation is neither present perceptually nor required to perform the task.