Chinese translation norms for 1,429 English words

Yun Wen*, Walter J.B. van Heuven

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


We present Chinese translation norms for 1,429 English words. Chinese-English bilinguals (N = 28) were asked to provide the first Chinese translation that came to mind for 1,429 English words. The results revealed that 71 % of the English words received more than one correct translation indicating the large amount of translation ambiguity when translating from English to Chinese. The relationship between translation ambiguity and word frequency, concreteness and language proficiency was investigated. Although the significant correlations were not strong, results revealed that English word frequency was positively correlated with the number of alternative translations, whereas English word concreteness was negatively correlated with the number of translations. Importantly, regression analyses showed that the number of Chinese translations was predicted by word frequency and concreteness. Furthermore, an interaction between these predictors revealed that the number of translations was more affected by word frequency for more concrete words than for less concrete words. In addition, mixed-effects modelling showed that word frequency, concreteness and English language proficiency were all significant predictors of whether or not a dominant translation was provided. Finally, correlations between the word frequencies of English words and their Chinese dominant translations were higher for translation-unambiguous pairs than for translation-ambiguous pairs. The translation norms are made available in a database together with lexical information about the words, which will be a useful resource for researchers investigating Chinese-English bilingual language processing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1006-1019
Number of pages14
JournalBehavior Research Methods
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Chinese-English bilinguals
  • English to Chinese translation norms
  • Translation ambiguity


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