Poster E78, Monday, March 27, 2:30 – 4:30 pm, Pacific Concourse
The effects of L1 morphology on subject-verb agreement processing in English
Andrew Armstrong1, Nyssa Bulkes1, Darren Tanner1; 1University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Research on second language processing has provided conflicting results about the extent to which nonnative speakers anticipate during L2 comprehension. The present study investigates this issue further by examining the effects of L1 morphology on how English subject-verb agreement dependencies are processed by nonnative speakers. Tanner and Bulkes (2015) used sentences like 'The/Many cookies taste/*tastes the best when dipped in milk' to find evidence that quantifying the subject NP increased L1 English speakers’ sensitivity to S-V agreement violations by providing an additional predictive cue about the upcoming verb’s number feature. In the current study, we are replicating this experiment with L1 speakers of Spanish, a morphologically complex language, and L1 speakers of Mandarin Chinese, which lacks verbal agreement morphology. The L1 Spanish data collection is currently underway, but the data from 40 native Chinese speakers have already produced clear results. Event related potentials (ERPs) time-locked to the critical verbs showed that like the L1 English participants, the L1 Chinese speakers generated a P600 in response to ungrammatical words involving morphosyntactic violations. However, the L1 Chinese speakers’ results differed in that the P600 for this group was larger when no quantifier was present. This indicates that while L1 Chinese speakers can process morphosyntactic features absent from their L1, they are integrated differently from native English speakers. Further testing with L1 speakers of Spanish will make it possible to determine if these results reflect a general L2 parsing strategy, or the influence of Mandarin’s status as an isolating language on processing.
Topic Area: LANGUAGE: Syntax