Morphosyntactic Processing in Late Second-Language Learners

University of La Laguna, Spain.
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 4.09). 08/2009; 22(8):1870-87. DOI: 10.1162/jocn.2009.21304
Source: PubMed


The goal of the present study was to investigate the electrophysiological correlates of second-language (L2) morphosyntactic processing in highly proficient late learners of an L2 with long exposure to the L2 environment. ERPs were collected from 22 English-Spanish late learners while they read sentences in which morphosyntactic features of the L2 present or not present in the first language (number and gender agreement, respectively) were manipulated at two different sentence positions-within and across phrases. The results for a control group of age-matched native-speaker Spanish participants included an ERP pattern of LAN-type early negativity followed by P600 effect in response to both agreement violations and for both sentence positions. The late L2 learner results included a similar pattern, consisting of early negativity followed by P600, in the first sentence position (within-phrase agreement violations) but only P600 effects in the second sentence position (across-phrase agreement violation), as well as significant amplitude and onset latency differences between the gender and the number violation effects in both sentence positions. These results reveal that highly proficient learners can show electrophysiological correlates during L2 processing that are qualitatively similar to those of native speakers, but the results also indicate the contribution of factors such as age of acquisition and transfer processes from first language to L2.

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    • "First, during a feature-checking stage, feature consistency between elements is evaluated. This stage has often been related to an increased anterior negativity lateralized to the left hemisphere (LAN: Left Anterior Negativity arising between 300–500 ms post-stimulus; Barber and Carreiras, 2003, 2005; Dowens et al., 2010; Hagoort and Brown, 2000; Hagoort et al., 1993; Mancini et al., 2011a,b; see Molinaro et al., 2011 for a review; Osterhout and Mobley, 1995; Rossi et al., 2005; Silva-Pereyra and Carreiras, 2007). In a subsequent stage, an interpretation of the feature-consistent syntactic object is assigned, or, if necessary , repair and reanalysis operations are performed. "
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    ABSTRACT: Agreement computation is one of the pillars of language comprehension. In this fMRI study, we investigated the neuro-cognitive processes of agreement associated with number feature covariance in subject-verb agreement and determiner-noun concord in Spanish by creating mismatches (ella/*ellas corre, she/*they dances vs. el/*los anillo, thesg/*thepl ring). The results evidenced the engagement of a common bilateral fronto-parietal monitoring system, not language specific, and a left fronto-temporal system that seems to be specifically related to different aspects of phrase and sentence processing. In particular, the major difference was found in the anterior portion of the left MTG-STG, which we relate to fine-grained syntactic-combinatorial building mechanisms apparently controlled by the pars opercularis within the LIFG. These results suggest that general conflict-monitoring processes operate in parallel with language-specific mechanisms that are sensitive to the specificity of agreement type for the detection of feature covariance among sentence constituents. Specifically, the coupling between these frontal and temporal regions seems to be flexible enough to show sensitivity to the fine-grained combinatorial mechanisms that underlie nominal and subject-verb agreement. Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier Inc.
    NeuroImage 07/2015; 120. DOI:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2015.06.075 · 6.36 Impact Factor
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    • "Many other ERP studies have similarly shown that native-like attainment in the domain of inflectional morphology is indeed possible, with this attainment being modulated by not only proficiency, but also the native language of L2 learners and the phonological instantiation of the morphological system in the target language (e.g., Frenck-Mestre et al., 2008; Gabriele, Fiorentino, & Aleman-Bañón, 2013; Gillon-Dowens et al., 2010; Tanner, Inoue, & Osterhout, in press). These studies, however, all examine L2 learners' sensitivity to morphosyntactic violations in the context of sentences. "
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    ABSTRACT: This study investigates whether late second/foreign language (L2) learners can rely on similar mechanisms as native speakers for processing morphologically complex words. Specifically, it examines whether native English speakers who have begun learning French around the onset of puberty can decompose –er (Class I) French verbs. Mid-to-high-proficiency L2 learners and native French speakers completed a masked-priming word-naming task. Latencies for morphologically related, orthographically related, and semantically related prime-target combinations were compared to latencies for identical and unrelated prime-target combinations. The results reveal the following effects: full morphological priming for both native and non-native speakers, with this effect increasing with French proficiency for L2 learners; partial orthographic priming for both groups; greater priming in the morphological condition than in the orthographic condition for both groups; and no semantic priming for either group. We conclude that L2 learners have access to similar mechanisms as native speakers for processing morphologically complex words.
    Bilingualism 07/2015; 18(03). DOI:10.1017/S1366728914000200 · 1.71 Impact Factor
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    • "SD ¼ 0.5), contained between four and nine letters (mean¼ 5.65, SD ¼1.03) and between two and four syllables (mean¼ 2.3, SD ¼0.48) (Duchon et al., 2013). Experimental material also shown to participants but the associated data of which was not used here included 120 sentences that manipulated the agreement relationship in the middle of the sentence, 40 sentences that manipulated number agreement at the beginning of the sentence and 80 well-formed sentences that included nouns with opaque or irregular gender and adjectives with neuter gender to avoid strategies based on purely orthographic features (for a description of the full set of materials see Barber and Carreiras (2005); Gillon Dowens et al. (2010)). "
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