This study of second-language (L2) sentence processing responds to the following two questions: (1) Can L2 learners become nativelike processors?; and (2) Is L2 processing influenced by first-language (L1) processing or knowledge? These questions were addressed by examining L2 Spanish speakers’ and L1 English speakers’ sensitivity to the interaction between word order and verb type in self-paced reading (SPR) tasks. The results of two Spanish SPR tasks revealed that beginner and intermediate L2 learners’ sentence processing and accurate interpretation of sentences were influenced primarily by changes in word order, which is non-nativelike behavior. The processing of advanced L2 learners and native Spanish speakers, however, was affected by the interaction between word order and verb type. Word order as an isolated variable seems to affect sentence processing less as Spanish proficiency increases. An English sentence completion task and an English SPR task demonstrated that there is an interaction between word order and verb type that resembles the one in Spanish. Overall, the results suggest that L2 Spanish learners can perform similar to native speakers when processing sentences with variable word order and verb type. Also, because there is more crosslinguistic similarity between English and Spanish at the intersection of word order and verb type than previously thought, claims that L1 English is a source of negative language transfer or that L1 English knowledge cannot aide in the L2 acquisition of Spanish should be made with more hesitation.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation.July 2020. Major: Hispanic and Luso Literatures, Cultures & Linguistics. Advisor: Mandy Menke. 1 computer file (PDF); viii, 236 pages.
The Interaction Between Word Order and Verb Type in L2 Spanish and L1 English Sentence Processing.
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