The linguistic transparency of first language calendar terms affects calendar calculations in a second language

Bene Bassetti, Annie Clarke, Danijela Trenkic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Calendar calculations – e.g., calculating the nth month after a certain month – are an important component of temporal cognition, and can vary cross-linguistically. English speakers rely on a verbal list representation-processing system. Chinese speakers – whose calendar terms are numerically transparent – rely on a more efficient numerical system. Does knowing a numerically transparent calendar lexicon facilitate calendar calculations in an opaque second language? Late Chinese-English bilinguals and English native speakers performed a Month and a Weekday Calculation Task in English. Directionality (forward/backward) and boundary-crossing (within/across the year/week boundary) were manipulated. English speakers relied on verbal list processing, and were slower in backward than forward calculations. In spite of the English calendar system's opaqueness, bilinguals relied on numerical processing, were slower in across- than within-boundary trials, and under some conditions had faster RTs than the native speakers. Results have implications for research on temporal cognition, linguistic relativity and bilingual cognition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-89
Number of pages9
JournalActa psychologica
Early online date2 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - May 2018

Bibliographical note

© 2018 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy.


  • Calendar calculation; Linguistic relativity; Temporal cognition; Bilingual cognition; Chinese
  • Bilingual cognition
  • Chinese
  • Calendar calculation
  • Temporal cognition
  • Linguistic relativity

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