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Morphological variability in second language learners: an examination of electrophysiological and production data

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Aleman Banon, J., Miller, D. and Rothman, J. (2017) Morphological variability in second language learners: an examination of electrophysiological and production data. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory & Cognition. ISSN 0278-7393

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1037/xlm0000394

Abstract/Summary

We examined potential sources of morphological variability in adult L1 English L2 Spanish learners, with a focus on L1 L2 similarity, morphological markedness, and knowledge type (receptive vs. expressive). Experiment 1 uses event related potentials to examine noun adjective number (present in L1) and gender agreement (absent in L1) in online sentence comprehension (receptive knowledge). For each feature, markedness was manipulated, such that half of the critical noun adjective combinations were feminine (marked) and the other half, masculine; half were used in the plural (marked) and the other half in the singular. With this set up, we examined learners’ potential overreliance on unmarked forms or “defaults” (singular/masculine). Experiment 2 examines similar dependencies in spoken sentence production (expressive knowledge). Results showed that learners (n=22) performed better with number than gender overall, but their brain responses to both features were qualitatively native like (i.e., P600), even though gender was probed with nouns that do not provide strong distributional cues to gender. In addition, variability with gender agreement was better accounted for by lexical (as opposed to syntactic) aspects. Learners showed no advantage for comprehension over production. They also showed no systematic evidence of reliance on morphological defaults, although their online processing was sensitive to markedness in a native like manner. Overall, these results suggest that there is facilitation for properties of the L2 that exist in the L1 and that markedness impacts L2 processing, but in a native like manner. These results also speak against proposals arguing that adult L2ers have deficits at the level of the morphology or the syntax.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Interdisciplinary centres and themes > Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism
Interdisciplinary centres and themes > Centre for Integrative Neuroscience and Neurodynamics (CINN)
Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Clinical Language Sciences
Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Language and Cognition
Interdisciplinary centres and themes > Centre for Cognition Research (CCR)
ID Code:68646
Publisher:American Psychological Association.
Publisher Statement:© 2017, American Psychological Association. This paper is not the copy of record and may not exactly replicate the final, authoritative version of the article. The final article version pf the article is available via its DOI: 10.1037/xlm0000394

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