Accessibility navigation

Similarity-based interference and relative clauses in second language processing

Cunnings, I. ORCID: and Fujita, H. (2023) Similarity-based interference and relative clauses in second language processing. Second Language Research, 39 (2). pp. 539-563. ISSN 1477-0326

Text (Open Access) - Published Version
· Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.
· Please see our End User Agreement before downloading.


It is advisable to refer to the publisher's version if you intend to cite from this work. See Guidance on citing.

To link to this item DOI: 10.1177/02676583211063534


Relative clauses have long been examined in research on first (L1) and second (L2) language acquisition and processing, and a large body of research has shown that object relative clauses (e.g. ‘The boy that the girl saw’) are more difficult to process than subject relative clauses (e.g. ‘The boy that saw the girl’). Although there are different accounts of this finding, memory-based factors have been argued to play a role in explaining the object relative disadvantage. Evidence of memory-based factors in relative clause processing comes from studies indicating that representational similarity influences the difficulty associated with object relatives as a result of a phenomenon known as similarity-based interference. Although similarity-based interference has been well studied in L1 processing, less is known about how it influences L2 processing. We report two studies – an eye-tracking experiment and a comprehension task – investigating interference in the comprehension of relative clauses in L1 and L2 readers. Our results indicated similarity-based interference in the processing of object relative clauses in both L1 and L2 readers, with no significant differences in the size of interference effects between the two groups. These results highlight the importance of considering memory-based factors when examining L2 processing.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Interdisciplinary Research Centres (IDRCs) > Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism (CeLM)
Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Clinical Language Sciences
Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Language and Cognition
ID Code:101942


Downloads per month over past year

University Staff: Request a correction | Centaur Editors: Update this record

Page navigation