Article

Lexical constraints in second language learning: Evidence on grammatical gender in German*

Authors:
To read the full-text of this research, you can request a copy directly from the authors.

Abstract

The present study asked whether or not the apparent insensitivity of second language (L2) learners to grammatical gender violations reflects an inability to use grammatical information during L2 lexical processing. Native German speakers and English speakers with intermediate to advanced L2 proficiency in German performed a translation-recognition task. On critical trials, an incorrect translation was presented that either matched or mismatched the grammatical gender of the correct translation. Results show interference for native German speakers in conditions in which the incorrect translation matched the gender of the correct translation. Native English speakers, regardless of German proficiency, were insensitive to the gender mismatch. In contrast, these same participants were correctly able to assign gender to critical items. These findings suggest a dissociation between explicit knowledge and the ability to use that information under speeded processing conditions and demonstrate the difficulty of L2 gender processing at the lexical level.

No full-text available

Request Full-text Paper PDF

To read the full-text of this research,
you can request a copy directly from the authors.

... German and Hindi, gender assignment among late learners appears to be even more target-deviant or variable (Hopp, 2013), even though learners benefit from phonological and semantic regularities in gender assignment (e.g. Bobb et al., 2015;Bordag et al., 2006). Hence, L2 learners show partially incorrect gender assignment and unstable gender assignment. ...
... le/leur joli bateau 'the MASC / their AMBIGUOUS nice ship'). In contrast, even highly advanced late L1 English L2ers of French make no difference in naming speed according to preceding gender information on nouns (Guillelmon and Grosjean, 2001; see also Bobb et al., 2015) and adjectives (Scherag et al., 2004). ...
... However, when the subjective gender assignment to the Dutch words by the participants as elicited in a separate written gender assignment task was taken as the baseline, the bilinguals evinced a native-like ERP response pattern. For translation recognition, English late learners of German also display target-like sensitivity to gender agreement violations only when their accuracy in gender assignment is taken into account (Bobb et al., 2015). Such studies further underscore that gender agreement processing is contingent on variability in lexical knowledge of gender assignment. ...
Article
In two experiments, this article investigates the predictive processing of gender agreement in adult second language (L2) acquisition. We test (1) whether instruction on lexical gender can lead to target predictive agreement processing and (2) how variability in lexical gender representations moderates L2 gender agreement processing. In a pretest–posttest design, Experiment 1 trained 34 intermediate first language (L1) English learners of German on gender assignment. After training, the L2 group showed predictive gender processing; yet, performance correlated with accuracy in gender assignment. Experiment 1 suggests that target knowledge of lexical gender in the L2 lexicon is a prerequisite for predictive use of gender agreement in L2 syntax: Non-target gender assignment would lead to partially erroneous gender prediction such that use of gender agreement is costly for the parser and therefore abandoned. To test this account, Experiment 2 investigated predictive processing in 42 German native speakers who have target-like gender assignment and agreement. In a between-group design, one group received target input and the other received filler items with non-target gender assignment. The latter group subsequently stopped using gender agreement predictively in all experimental trials. Hence, L2 problems with gender agreement can be emulated in native processing. Taken together, the experiments suggest that variability of lexical gender assignment affects processing of gender agreement in natives and non-natives. We interpret the findings in the context of current probabilistic theories of implicit learning and processing adaptation.
... Previous research has also pointed to a dissociation between the knowledge of grammatical gender and the ability to use that knowledge under processing conditions in L2 (Sabourin & Stowe 2008;Bobb, Kroll & Jackson 2015). At the same time, many studies have found that grammatical gender retrieval shows a similar time course in L1 and L2 lexical access (Shantz & Tanner 2016). ...
... The second hypothesis is that Norwegian will be the main source of transfer because i) it is the participant's previous non-native language (see Williams & Hammarberg 1998;Bohnacker 2006;Falk & Bardel 2011;Bardel & Falk 2012), and ii) it is typologically related to the target language, i.e., Swedish (see Flynn et al. 2004;Slabakova 2017;Rothman 2015;Westergaard 2021). The third hypothesis is that the participant's performance in the online task will be less accurate than his performance in the offline task because a dissociation between the knowledge of grammatical gender and the ability to use it during processing has been reported in previous literature (see Sabourin & Stowe 2008;Bobb et al. 2015). ...
... The data show that it was not easier for Marcel to assign gender to nouns in L3 Swedish without time pressure. This result contradicts the prediction that online performance should be worse than offline performance and counterexemplifies the previously observed dissociation between the knowledge of grammatical gender and the ability to use that knowledge under time pressure (Sabourin & Stowe 2008;Bobb et al. 2015). As a matter of fact, Marcel performed slightly better in the online task. ...
Article
Full-text available
This case study examines transfer effects in the acquisition of grammatical gender in L3/Ln. A learner of L3 Swedish, who had previously acquired two grammatical gender systems: one in his native Polish and the other in his non-native Norwegian, participated in three tasks: an online gender decision task, an offline gender decision task, and a speeded acceptability judgement task on determiner phrases (indefinite article + noun). Accuracy scores in all three tasks reveal robust transfer from Norwegian, but not from Polish. The transfer from Norwegian determines two processes inherent to grammatical gender, i.e. gender assignment and gender concord. However, response latencies in the online gender decision task point to competition between the Norwegian and Swedish gender systems at the level of gender retrieval, suggesting that target-like gender representations in Swedish are developing. Since transfer is traditionally claimed to be situated at the level of linguistic representation, it is assumed that the learner in this study temporarily developed a shared grammatical gender system for Norwegian and Swedish.
... Processing of lexical or grammatical features that are absent in L1 may be particularly subject to resource limitations because rules or representations in L1 (which L2 speakers can arguably apply more automatically) cannot be applied. Thus, L2 speakers may have difficulty in using L2-specific linguistic features for 20 prediction (Bobb et al., 2015;Foucart & Frenck-Mestre, 2011). Another possibility is that L2 speakers may be slower to pre-activate L2 words because of interference from lexical representations in their L1. ...
Chapter
Full-text available
Some evidence suggests that prediction is more limited in non-native language (L2) than native language (L1) comprehension. We evaluate the hypothesis that prediction is limited in L2 because prediction is largely non-automatic. We examine whether the subprocesses involved in prediction are unconscious, unintentional, efficient and uncontrollable (Bargh, 1994) to understand the extent to which prediction is automatic in L1 and L2. To unpack the subprocesses in prediction, we draw on Pickering and Garrod's (2013) proposal that people primarily use their production system for prediction, as well as a more automatic association-based mechanism. We conclude that at least some of the subprocesses in prediction are not fully automatic and suggest that these non-automatic processes can interfere with prediction in L2.
... In the second L1=>L2 scenario, a French learner acquiring L2 German activates syntactic gender but may initially coactivate [fem] with CS [CHAIR] and produce feminine determiners as in "*die Stuhl" ("the chair") instead of masculine "der Stuhl". Generally, the empirical evidence seems to point to both these alternative scenarios posing considerably less of a challenge to the learner that the one used in our main example where, on encountering the L2, [fem] has to be activated for the first time (see, for example, Parafita Couto et al 2016, Bobb et al 2015, Sagarra and Herschensohn, J. 2010). ...
Chapter
In this chapter, I present a processing-based 'working model' of the mind based on research findings across a range of disciplines within cognitive science. The inclusion of processing considerations should not obscure the fact that representational and processing explanations are integrated within this model, or more properly, within this theoretical 'framework'. The makes it an extension of theoretical linguistic explanations for changes in the way a language is represented in the mind of an individual. It also runs counter to the current and, in present terms, entirely misguided tendency to see representations and processing routines as entirely separate. phenomena Where research deals with acquisition or acquisition real time, as is the case with developmental linguistics, only an integrated view makes sense. A representation existing in the mind of a specific individual engaged in language-related activity is a particular combination of structural and processing properties. These can change together over time and in different ways: you cannot consider one without considering the other. The role of language is interpreted, in line with the generative enterprise, as being dependent on a uniquely human, biologically endowed linguistic ability. Language ability in its broadest sense both depends on this core ability but is actually much more extensive involving many parts of the mind that have other unrelated functions. Any unifying framework that encompasses all these aspects will need incorporate much more than an abstract account of linguistic structure divorced from time and space considerations. The manner in which its theoretical insights are formulated out for internal theoretical purposes will not be a reliable and complete guide when working out the nature of those mechanisms responsible for online processing, storage and development. The underlying aim is, accordingly, to integrate theoretical linguistic accounts with current explanations of how the mind processes and stores mental representations of any kind. This has also to be done in a way that is in tune with and can supplement work in current neuroscience. In this chapter, I will present a processing-based 'working model' of the mind based on research findings across a range of disciplines within cognitive science. The inclusion of processing considerations should not obscure the fact that representational and processing explanations are integrated within this model, or more properly, within this theoretical 'framework'. The makes it an extension of theoretical linguistic explanations for changes in the way a language is represented in the mind of an individual. It also runs counter to the current and, in present terms, entirely misguided tendency to see representations and processing routines as entirely separate. phenomena Where research deals with acquisition or acquisition real time, as is the case with developmental linguistics, only an integrated view makes sense. A representation existing in the mind of a specific individual engaged in language-related activity is a particular combination of structural and processing properties. These can change together over time and in different ways: you cannot consider one without considering the other. The role of language is interpreted, in line with the generative enterprise, as being dependent on a uniquely human, biologically endowed linguistic ability. Language ability in its broadest sense both depends on this core ability but is actually much more extensive involving many parts of the mind that have other unrelated functions. Any unifying framework that encompasses all these aspects will need incorporate much more than an abstract account of linguistic structure divorced from time and space considerations. The manner in which its theoretical insights are formulated out for internal theoretical purposes will not be a reliable and complete guide when working out the nature of those mechanisms responsible for online processing, storage and development The underlying aim is, accordingly, to integrate theoretical linguistic accounts with current explanations of how the mind processes and stores mental representations of any kind. This has also to be done in a way that is in tune with and can supplement work in current neuroscience. The case of grammatical gender is selected as a way of illistrating the arguments presented.
Article
Full-text available
Cambridge Core - European Language and Linguistics - The Cambridge Handbook of Germanic Linguistics - edited by Michael T. Putnam
Article
Full-text available
Тransparency of gender markers facilitates gender acquisition, but few studies investigated it in closely related languages, in which transparency can interact with the distributional regularity of these markers. This is the first contrastive study of gender acquisition in Russian and Bulgarian, which have similar gender systems but differ in the distribution of opaque nouns across gender classes. Opacity is present in inanimate nouns in all three genders in Russian but only in FEM in Bulgarian. We argue that transparency facilitates acquisition of gender in both languages, as expected, but in Bulgarian, its facilitatory effect is attenuated due to the distributional asymmetry of opaque nouns. Russian and Bulgarian children (N=22, age range 3;8-6;11) performed an offline elicited gender production task naming an object and its color/size. We found effect of Transparency in both languages, with better production of the transparent MASC and FEM nouns than the opaque ones. This effect was stronger in Russian, with Russian children being more accurate than Bulgarian ones in FEM opaque. We propose that the distributional regularities, i.e., systematicity and pervasiveness of opacity in Russian that cut across all three genders, make children more aware of its role in the input. Conversely, in Bulgarian, irregularly distributed opacity functions as a difficult-to-notice exception that might be acquired on an item-by-item basis.
Article
In two reading experiments involving a self-paced reading task, we explored how literariness affects initial stages of incidental vocabulary acquisition during reading in second language German. In Experiment 1, literariness was operationalized along the formalist, language-driven approach, focusing on the role of literary devices and their assumed ability to draw readers’ attention to the verbal message itself. In Experiment 2, we included conventions related to reading fiction (book title, author name, and year of publishing) to modulate the reader’s mode of text processing, which defines literariness according to reader-driven approaches (e.g., reception theory). Contrary to the expectations based on the noticing hypothesis (Schmidt, 2012), we did not observe any advantage for incidental vocabulary acquisition in literary texts compared to nonliterary ones. However, in accordance with claims taking into account the limits of cognitive resources, we found evidence that acquisition of unknown words is impeded, if these directly participate in a literary device.
Article
Full-text available
Traditional computational accounts of gender representation and learning (e.g., Carroll, 1989, 1995) differ radically from cue-based and connectionist accounts. The latter but not the former predicts that access to noun gender will vary depending on the reliability of noun endings (and other sublexical elements and morphological constituents) in marking gender, and that agreement markers can be used strategically to constrain the genders of ambiguously marked nouns. Adult native (L1) speakers of Russian (Experiment 1) and advanced nonnative (L2) speakers (Experiment 2) read Russian sentences on a computer and were asked to choose one of two inflected past tense verbs in a forced choice task. The verbs either matched or mismatched the gender of the subject NP. Half of the target trials used opaque (end-palatalized) subject nouns, which were ambiguously marked for gender, and the other half used transparent (regularly marked) subject nouns. Noun type was crossed with the presence or absence of a gender-marked adjective in the subject NP. When an adjective was present in the subject NP, both L1 and L2 speakers were significantly faster at reading and selecting the correct verb form. L2 but not L1 speakers showed longer reading and choice latencies and made more errors when the subject noun was opaque. The data showed that L2 speakers used adjective inflections to disambiguate the gender of opaque subject nouns and to select gender appropriate verb inflections. The accuracy data for L1 and L2 speakers were tested against several connectionist models. The models' success in accounting for the data suggested that L1 and L2 speakers may depend on a common learning mechanism and thus resemble one another at the computational level, contrary to traditional computational accounts (Carroll, 1989, 1995).
Article
Full-text available
Current approaches to second language acquisition (SLA) can be divided broadly into two groups: nativist models and empiricist models. Nativist models attribute language development to the operation of a universal, genetically controlled, language instinct. For researchers in the nativist tra-dition, the learning of the core features of a second language involves little more than the setting of a few switches for the parameters. Many nativists view second language acquisition as recapitulating the course of first language acquisition (Bickerton, 1984; Krashen, 1982) because a strong version of the nativist position holds that both first and second language learning are determined by the underlying principles of Universal Grammar. Empiricist approaches to second language acquisition tend to emphasize the extent to which the second language must be actually learned. Some second language researchers who are willing to grant that first language acquisition is strongly influenced by Universal Grammar are not willing to view second language acquisition in the same light (Bley-Vroman, Felix, & loup, 1988; Clahsen & Muysken, 1986; Schachter, 1989). Researchers who accept nativist approaches to first language acquisition and empiricist ap-proaches to second language acquisition often bolster their analysis by point-ing to evidence for a critical period for language learning. Johnson and Newport (1989, 1991), for example, have argued that the onset of puberty 113 114 MACWHINNEY marks the end of the critical period for language learning, after which the learner can no longer rely on the forces of Universal Grammar to facilitate the task of second language learning, (See Harley & Wang, chapter 1, this volume, for an up-to-date review of the critical-period literature.) In this chapter, we explore a position that views both first and second language learning as constructive, data-driven processes that rely not on universals of linguistic structure, but on universals of cognitive strucaire. This model is the Competition Model of MacWhinney and Bates (MacWhin-ney, 1987a, 1989, 1992). The Competition Model presents a functionalist and connectionist view of both first and second language learning that attributes development to learning and transfer, rather than to the principles and parameters of Universal Grammar. We explore how the Competition Model deals with some of the basic facts of both first and second language learning, and we focus on those aspects of the model that allow it to distinguish between the two types of language learning. Before looking at specific studies and specific findings, let us first review the basic theoretical commitments of the Competition Model. These principles are claimed to hold for both first and second language learning.
Method
Full-text available
In the present study we investigate the relevance of the concept of underspecified inflection markers for the processing of language in the human brain. Underspecification is recognized as the main source of syncretism in many current morphological theories. However, relatively little is known about its cognitive status. In underspecification-based theories, a competition among morphological exponents arises systematically. In order to win such a competition, an inflection marker has to meet two requirements: COMPATIBILITY and SPECIFICITY. If underspecification is real, these two principles should also be an inherent part of the language processing system. One should therefore be able to observe separable effects for the violation of each of the criteria. We used the event-related potential (ERP) violation paradigm to test this hypothesis in the domain of strong adjective inflection in German. We expected differences in brain potentials between two incorrect conditions whenever they represented different types of violation (of compatibility and specificity). Our findings strongly support underspecification: an ERP-component related to morphosyntactic integration (viz. left anterior negativity; LAN) was modulated by violations of specificity versus compatibility. Furthermore, the neurophysiological evidence helps to distinguish between two kinds of morphological underspecification that have been proposed: it argues for maximal rather than minimal underspecification. Finally, the observed brain responses indicate increased processing demands for highly specific markers, which suggests that LAN effects may be sensitive not only to morphosyntactic violations but also to the degree of processing effort.
Article
Full-text available
This paper identifies several serious problems with the widespread use of ANOVAs for the analysis of categorical outcome variables such as forced-choice variables, question-answer accuracy, choice in production (e.g. in syntactic priming research), et cetera. I show that even after applying the arcsine-square-root transformation to proportional data, ANOVA can yield spurious results. I discuss conceptual issues underlying these problems and alternatives provided by modern statistics. Specifically, I introduce ordinary logit models (i.e. logistic regression), which are well-suited to analyze categorical data and offer many advantages over ANOVA. Unfortunately, ordinary logit models do not include random effect modeling. To address this issue, I describe mixed logit models (Generalized Linear Mixed Models for binomially distributed outcomes, Breslow & Clayton, 1993), which combine the advantages of ordinary logit models with the ability to account for random subject and item effects in one step of analysis. Throughout the paper, I use a psycholinguistic data set to compare the different statistical methods.
Article
Full-text available
Mastery of grammatical gender is difficult to achieve in a second language (L2). This study investigates whether persistent difficulty with grammatical gender often observed in the speech of otherwise highly proficient L2 learners is best characterized as a production-specific performance problem, or as difficulty with the retrieval of gender information in real-time language use. In an experimental design that crossed production/comprehension and online/offline tasks, highly proficient L2 learners of Spanish performed at ceiling in offline comprehension, showed errors in elicited production, and exhibited weaker use of gender cues in online processing of familiar (though not novel) nouns than native speakers. These findings suggest that persistent difficulty with grammatical gender may not be limited to the realm of language production, but could affect both expressive and receptive use of language in real time. We propose that the observed differences in performance between native and non-native speakers lie at the level of lexical representation of grammatical gender and arise from fundamental differences in how infants and adults approach word learning.
Article
Full-text available
In this article we investigate the effects of first language (L1) on second language (L2) neural processing for two grammatical constructions (verbal domain dependency and grammatical gender), focusing on the event-related potential P600 effect, which has been found in both L1 and L2 processing. Native Dutch speakers showed a P600 effect for both constructions tested. However, in L2 Dutch (with German or a Romance language as L1) a P600 effect only occurred if L1 and L2 were similar. German speakers show a P600 effect to both constructions. Romance speakers only show a P600 effect within the verbal domain. We interpret these findings as showing that with similar rule-governed processing routines in L1 and L2 (verbal domain processing for both German and Romance speakers), similar neural processing is possible in L1 and L2. However, lexically-driven constructions that are not the same in L1 and L2 (grammatical gender for Romance speakers) do not result in similar neural processing in L1 and L2 as measured by the P600 effect.
Article
Full-text available
A number of studies in the research literature have proposed that Universal Grammar (UG) is partially available to adult second language learners. Attempts to provide a syntactic characterization of that partial availability have only recently begun to appear, however. In this article we will argue that speakers of Chinese (a language without wh-operator movement in overt syntax) learning second language English (a language with wh-operator movement in overt syntax) establish mental representations for English which involve pronominal binding rather than operator movement. It will be suggested that this divergence from native-speaker representations is an effect of the inaccessibility of features of functional categories in second language acquisition, what we will refer to as the ‘failed functional features hypothesis’. Implications are drawn from the findings for the syntactic characterization of accessibility to UG more generally in second language acquisition.
Article
Full-text available
We examined how age of acquisition in Spanish heritage speakers and L2 learners interacts with implicitness vs. explicitness of tasks in gender processing of canonical and non-canonical ending nouns. Twenty-three Spanish native speakers, 29 heritage speakers, and 33 proficiency-matched L2 learners completed three on-line spoken word recognition experiments involving gender monitoring, grammaticality judgment, and word repetition. All three experimental tasks required participants to listen to grammatical and ungrammatical Spanish noun phrases (determiner–adjective–noun) but systematically varied the type of response required of them. The results of the Gender Monitoring Task (GMT) and the Grammaticality Judgment Task (GJT) revealed significant grammaticality effects for all groups in accuracy and speed, but in the Word Repetition Task (WRT), the native speakers and the heritage speakers showed a grammaticality effect, while the L2 learners did not. Noun canonicity greatly affected processing in the two experimental groups. We suggest that input frequency and reduced language use affect retrieval of non-canonical ending nouns from declarative memory in L2 learners and heritage speakers more so than in native speakers. Native-like processing of gender in the WRT by the heritage speakers is likely related to context of acquisition and particular experience with oral production.
Article
Full-text available
The present study examined the processing of grammatical gender in second language (L2) French as a function of language background (Experiment 1) and as a function of overt phonetic properties of agreement (Experiment 2) by examining Event Related Potential (ERP) responses to gender discord in L2 French. In Experiment 1 we explored the role of the presence/absence of abstract grammatical gender in the L1 (gendered German, ungendered English): we compared German and English learners of French when processing post-nominal plural (no gender cues on determiner) attributive adjectives that either agreed in gender with the noun or presented a gender violation. We found grammaticalized responses (P600) by native and L1 English learners, but no response by German L1, a result we attribute to the possible influence of plurality, which is gender neutralized in German DP concord. In Experiment 2, we examined the role of overt phonetic cues to noun-adjective gender agreement in French, for both native speakers and Spanish L2 learners of French, finding that both natives and L2 learners showed a more robust P600 in the presence of phonetic cues. These data, in conjunction with those of other ERP studies can best be accounted for by a model that allows for native language influence, that is not, however constrained by age of acquisition, and that must also allow for clear cues in the input to influence acquisition and/or processing.
Article
Full-text available
In languages in which nouns have a grammatical gender, word recognition can be estimated by gender decision response times. Although gender decision has yet to be used extensively, it has proved sensitive to several factors that have been shown to affect lexical access. The task is not restricted to spoken language but can be used with linguistic information from other sensory modalities.
Article
Full-text available
Three experiments looked for the determinants of performance in 3 versions of the word-translation task. Exp 1 contained the normal-translation version and the cued-translation version. In Exp 2, Ss performed the translation-recognition task. In both experiments, word frequency and word imageability were manipulated. Both affected performance in all 3 versions of the task. In Exp 3 (normal translation), in addition to the effects of frequency and imageability, those of context availability, cognate status, definition accuracy, length of the stimulus words and of their translations, and familiarity were studied. All of them correlated with the performance measures, but only 4 variables accounted for unique translation variance: the frequency of the stimulus word, the frequency of the response word, cognate status, and context availability. These results are discussed in terms of bilingual memory structure. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
Full-text available
We examined the effects of study-abroad experience (SAE) and working-memory capacity (WMC) on the types of errors made during single-word translation from the first language to the second language, contrasting non-response with meaning errors (i.e. when individuals translate semantically-related words instead of the target word). SAE and WMC interacted; individuals with more SAE and higher WMC made as many meaning as non-response errors, whereas individuals in the other groups made more non-response than meaning errors. We conclude that SAE encourages the use of approximate translations to communicate, but only higher WMC learners can do so because this strategy requires multiple items to be maintained in memory simultaneously. A speech-production model is adapted to capture our results and demonstrate the effects of differential working memory demands on producing correct translations, meaning errors, and non-response errors.
Article
Full-text available
In this article second language (L2) knowledge of Dutch grammatical gender is investigated. Adult speakers of German, English and a Romance language (French, Italian or Spanish) were investigated to explore the role of transfer in learning the Dutch grammatical gender system. In the first language (L1) systems, German is the most similar to Dutch coming from a historically similar system. The Romance languages have grammatical gender; however, the system is not congruent to the Dutch system. English does not have grammatical gender (although semantic gender is marked in the pronoun system). Experiment 1, a simple gender assignment task, showed that all L2 participants tested could assign the correct gender to Dutch nouns (all L2 groups performing on average above 80%), although having gender in the L1 did correlate with higher accuracy, particularly when the gender systems were very similar. Effects of noun familiarity and a default gender strategy were found for all participants. In Experiment 2 agreement between the noun and the relative pronoun was investigated. In this task a distinct performance hierarchy was found with the German group performing the best (though significantly worse than native speakers), the Romance group performing well above chance (though not as well as the German group), and the English group performing at chance. These results show that L2 acquisition of grammatical gender is affected more by the morphological similarity of gender marking in the L1 and L2 than by the presence of abstract syntactic gender features in the L1.
Article
Full-text available
Age-of-acquisition, imagery, concreteness, familiarity, and ambiguity measures for 1,944 words of varying length and frequency of occurrence are presented. The words can all be used as nouns. Intergroup reliabilities are satisfactory on all attributes. Correlations with previous word lists are significant, and the intercorrelations between measures match previous findings.
Article
All second language (L2) learning theories presuppose that learners learn the target language from the speech signal (or written material, when learners are reading), so an understanding of learners' ability to detect and represent novel patterns in linguistic stimuli will constitute a major building block in an adequate theory of second language acquisition (SLA) input. Pattern detection, a mainstay of current connectionist modeling of language learning, presupposes a sensitivity to particular properties of the signal. Learning abstract grammatical knowledge from the signal presupposes, as well, the capacity to map phonetic properties of the signal onto properties of another type (segments and syllables, morpheme categories, and so on). Thus, even seemingly "simple" grammatical phenomena may embody complex structural knowledge and be instantiated by a plethora of diverse cues. Moreover, cues have no a priori status; a phenomenon of a given sort takes on a value as a cue when acquisition of the grammatical system reveals it to be useful. My study deals with initial sensitivity to cues to gender attribution in French. Andersen (1984) asked: "What's gender good for anyway?" One answer comes from a number of studies, done mostly in the last 20 years, of gender processing by both monolingual and bilingual speakers (among many others, Bates, Devescovi, Hernandez, & Pizzamiglio, 1996; Bates & Liu, 1997; Friederici & Jacobsen, 1990; Grosjean, Dommergues, Cornu, Guillemon, & Besson, 1994; Guillemon & Grosjean, 2001; Taft & Meunier, 1998). These studies provide evidence that in monolinguals and early (but not late) L2 learners, prenominal morphosyntactic exponents of gender prime noun activation and speed up noun recognition. Over the same period, a growing number of studies detailing the course of L2 gender acquisition for a variety of different target languages and learner types (e.g., Bartning, 2000; Chini, 1995; Dewaele & Veronique, 2000; Granfeldt, 2003; Hawkins & Franceschina, 2004) have provided support for the hypothesis that developmental paths differ for early and later learners of gender. Yet despite its obvious importance to SLA theorizing, few studies have dealt directly with adult learners' ability to detect and analyze potential cues to gender at the initial stage of exposure to the L2 (and this despite considerable discussion in recent years of the nature of the "initial state" of L2 learning). The study reported on in this article, which was actually conducted in the late 1980s, was an attempt to shed some light on what the beginning learner can do with the gender attribution problem. This study was, at that time, and is even now, an anomaly; most research dealing with "input" provided descriptions of what people say to learners, not what learners can perceive and represent. Indeed, most studies that shed light on the initial analytical capacities of absolute beginners were concerned with "perceptual" learning, that is, with the acquisition of phonetic or phonological distinctions (e.g., Broselow, Hurtig, & Ringen's [19871 study of tone learning or various studies on the perception of the /r/ vs. /l/ phonemes in American English by Japanese speakers). In this update, it is therefore worth mentioning Rast's (2003) dissertation and Rast and Dommergues (2003), which is based on it, which examined the results of the first 8 hr of instructed learning of Polish by francophone adults. My study asked if anglophone adults, with little or no prior exposure to French, given auditory stimuli, were equally sensitive to phonological, morphosyntactic, or semantic cues to French gender classes. The issue of what learners can detect in the signal and encode is an empirical one. I presented 88 adult English speakers with highly patterned data in list form, namely, auditory sequences of [Det+N](French)+translation equivalent(English) forms. The patterns, all true generalizations, were drawn from linguistic descriptions of French. These cues are believed by grammarians of the language to be "psychologically real" to native speakers. I then measured in 3 different ways what my participants had acquired. Given the extreme limitations on the input (no visual supports to identify referents of names), the participants performed pretty well. Moreover, they proved to be highly sensitive to "natural" semantic and morphological patterns and could generalize accurately from learned instances to novel exemplars. These patterns, however, are not directly instantiated in the speech signal; they are abstractions imposed on the stimuli by human linguistic cognition. Moreover, although it would be inaccurate to describe the learning patterns as "transfer" (because English nouns have no gender feature), prior knowledge seemed to be implicated in the results. Above all, these Anglophones appear to perceive the gender learning problem as a semantic one and to make use of "top-down" information in solving it. It follows that the pattern detection that they can do when listening to speech is clearly biased by what they already know. These results, therefore, provide support for hypotheses that the initial state is to be defined in terms of the transfer of first language (L1) grammatical knowledge and/or the transfer of L1-based processing procedures.
Article
In this article, two accounts of the variable use of inflection in adult second language (L2) acquisition are examined. The Missing Surface Inflection Hypothesis (MSIH) proposes that L2 learners have unconscious knowledge of the functional projections and features underlying tense and agreement. However, learners sometimes have a problem with realization of surface morphology, such that they resort to non-finite forms (e.g. Haznedar and Schwartz, 1997; Prévost and White, 1999). The Impaired Representation Hypothesis (IRH) claims that L2 inflection is essentially impaired, due to lack of functional categories, features or feature strength (e.g. Eubank, 1993/94; Meisel, 1997). These views make different predictions for adult L2 acquisition. Spontaneous production data from two adult learners of French and two adult learners of German are examined. The data show that finite forms do not occur in non-finite contexts, that learners exhibit syntactic reflexes of finiteness and that inflected forms largely show accurate agreement. These results suggest that adult L2 learners represent finiteness and agreement at an abstract level, rather than being impaired in this domain, supporting the MSIH.
Article
In the present study we investigate the relevance of the concept of underspecified inflection markers for the processing of language in the human brain. Underspecification is recognized as the main source of syncretism in many current morphological theories. However, relatively little is known about its cognitive status. In underspecification-based theories, a competition among morphological exponents arises systematically. In order to win such a competition, an inflection marker has to meet two requirements: COMPATIBILITY and SPECIFICITY. If underspecification is real, these two principles should also be an inherent part of the language processing system. One should therefore be able to observe separable effects for the violation of each of the criteria. We used the event-related potential (ERP) violation paradigm to test this hypothesis in the domain of strong adjective inflection in German. We expected differences in brain potentials between two incorrect conditions whenever they represented different types of violation (of compatibility and specificity). Our findings strongly support underspecification: an ERP-component related to morphosyntactic integration (viz. left anterior negativity; LAN) was modulated by violations of specificity versus compatibility. Furthermore, the neurophysiological evidence helps to distinguish between two kinds of morphological underspecification that have been proposed: it argues for maximal rather than minimal underspecification. Finally, the observed brain responses indicate increased processing demands for highly specific markers, which suggests that LAN effects may be sensitive not only to morphosyntactic violations but also to the degree of processing effort.
Code
Statistical analysis is a useful skill for linguists and psycholinguists, allowing them to understand the quantitative structure of their data. This textbook provides a straightforward introduction to the statistical analysis of language. Designed for linguists with a non-mathematical background, it clearly introduces the basic principles and methods of statistical analysis, using ’R’, the leading computational statistics programme. The reader is guided step-by-step through a range of real data sets, allowing them to analyse acoustic data, construct grammatical trees for a variety of languages, quantify register variation in corpus linguistics, and measure experimental data using state-of-the-art models. The visualization of data plays a key role, both in the initial stages of data exploration and later on when the reader is encouraged to criticize various models. Containing over 40 exercises with model answers, this book will be welcomed by all linguists wishing to learn more about working with and presenting quantitative data.
Article
In order to identify the causes of inflectional variability in adult second-language (L2) acquisition, this study investigates lexical and syntactic aspects of gender processing in real-time L2 production and comprehension. Twenty advanced to near-native adult first language (L1) English speakers of L2 German and 20 native controls were tested in a study comprising two experiments. In elicited production, we probe accuracy in lexical gender assignment. In a visual-world eye tracking task, we test the predictive processing of syntactic gender agreement between determiners and nouns. The findings show clear contingencies (1) between overall accuracy in lexical gender assignment in production and target predictive processing of syntactic gender agreement in comprehension and (2) between the speed of lexical access and predictive syntactic gender agreement. These findings support lexical and computational accounts of L2 inflectional variability and argue against models positing representational deficits in morphosyntax in late L2 acquisition and processing.
Article
This paper describes a computerised database of psycholinguistic information. Semantic, syntactic, phonological and orthographic information about some or all of the 98,538 words in the database is accessible, by using a specially-written and very simple programming language. Word-association data are also included in the database. Some examples are given of the use of the database for selection of stimuli to be used in psycholinguistic experimentation or linguistic research. © 1981, The Experimental Psychology Society. All rights reserved.
Article
This study investigated beginning adult second language (L2) learners' sensitivity to L2 morphosyntactic violations as a function of cross-language similarity. Online sensitivity was indexed by self-paced reading times at: (1) the critical word at which the violation could first be detected, (2) the post-critical word, and (3) the sentence-final word. In conditions in which morphosyntactic marking systems were similar or different in L1 and L2, reading times on the critical word were slower when it cued a violation than when it did not; however, this sensitivity was not apparent in a construction unique to L2. Slower reading times to violations spilled over onto the post-critical word. Cross-language similarity also influenced sentence-final word reading times. Despite this online sensitivity, post-sentence grammaticality judgements were generally poor. However, these judgements were influenced by morphosyntactic markings on words after the critical word, suggesting that learners can make use of this information.
Article
This article presents the rationale and procedures for conducting a process analysis in evaluation research. Such an analysis attempts to identify the process that mediates the effects of some treatment, by estimating the parameters of a causal chain between the treatment and some outcome variable. Two different procedures for estimating mediation are discussed. In addition we present procedures for examining whether a treatment exerts its effects, in part, by altering the mediating process that produces the outcome. Finally, the benefits of process analysis in evaluation research are underlined.
Article
Three experiments are reported in which picture naming and bilingual translation were performed in the context of semantically categorized or randomized lists. In Experiments 1 and 3 picture naming and bilingual translation were slower in the categorized than randomized conditions. In Experiment 2 this category interference effect in picture naming was eliminated when picture naming alternated with word naming. Taken together, the results of the three experiments suggest that in both picture naming and bilingual translation a conceptual representation of the word or picture is used to retrieve a lexical entry in one of the speaker's languages. When conceptual activity is sufficiently great to activate a multiple set of corresponding lexical representations, interference is produced in the process of retrieving a single best lexical candidate as the name or translation. The results of Experiment 3 showed further that category interference in bilingual translation occurred only when translation was performed from the first language to the second language, suggesting that the two directions of translation engage different interlanguage connections. A model to account for the asymmetric mappings of words to concepts in bilingual memory is described. (C) 1994 Academic Press, Inc.
Article
Changes in several postnatal maturational processes during neural development have been implicated as potential mechanisms underlying critical period phenomena. Lenneberg hypothesized that maturational processes similar to those that govern sensory and motor development may also constrain capabilities for normal language acquisition. Our goal, using a bilingual model, was to investigate the hypothesis that maturational constraints may have different effects upon the development of the functional specializations of distinct sub within language. Subjects were 61 adult Chinese/English bilinguals who were exposed to English at different points in development: 13, 46, 710, 1113, and after 16 years of age. Event-related brain potentials (ERPs) and behavioral responses were obtained as subjects read sentences that included semantic anomalies, three types of syntactic violations (phrase structure, specificity constraint, and subjacency constraint), and their controls. The accuracy in judging the grammaticality for the different types of syntactic rules and their associated ERPs was affected by delays in second language exposure as short as 13 years. By comparison the N400 response and the judgment accuracies in detecting semantic anomalies were altered only in subjects who were exposed to English after 1113 and 16 years of age, respectively. Further, the type of changes occurring in ERPs with delays in exposure were qualitatively different for semantic and syntactic processing. All groups displayed a significant N400 effect in response to semantic anomalies, however, the peak latencies of the N400 elicited in bilinguals who were exposed to English between 1113 and >16 years occurred later, suggesting a slight slowing in processing. For syntactic processing. the ERP differences associated with delays in exposure to English were observed in the morphology and distribution of components. Our findings are consistent with the view that maturational changes significantly constrain the development of the neural systems that are relevant for language and, further, that subsystems specialized for processing different aspects of language display different sensitive periods.
Article
This paper reports four experiments that test whether persistent problems of second-language (L2) learners with L2 inflection, such as case or subject–verb agreement, are the consequence of age-related grammatical impairment of L2 morphosyntax or differences in processing efficiency between natives and non-natives. Fifty-nine L1 English, Dutch and Russian advanced to near-native L2 speakers of German were tested on their ultimate attainment of case marking, subject–verb agreement and gender concord. Different off-line and on-line tasks were employed. Cross-linguistic and cross-experiment comparisons of native and non-native performance show that native-like ultimate attainment of L2 inflection is possible for postpubescent learners in L2 grammar and L2 processing. Non-target-like L2 inflection is systematically related to L1 transfer and limitations in L2 processing efficiency. In conjunction, these findings argue against a critical period for morphosyntax in L2 acquisition; rather, they suggest that non-native and native grammars and processing systems are fundamentally identical, with L2 systems being computationally less efficient due to L1 influence.
Article
This article is a defence of the Full Transfer/Full Access (FT/FA) model. FT/FA hypothesizes that the initial state of L2 acquisition is the final state of L1 acquisition (Full Transfer) and that failure to assign a representation to input data will force subsequent restructurings, drawing from options of UG (Full Access). We illustrate the FT/FA model by reviewing our analysis of the developmental Turkish-German Interlanguage data of Schwartz and Sprouse (1994) and then turn to other data that similarly receive straightforward accounts under FT/FA. We also consider two other competing hypotheses, both of which accept Full Access but not Full Transfer: the Minimal Trees hypothesis (no transfer of functional categories) of Vainikka and Young-Scholten (1994; 1996) and the Weak Transfer hypothesis (no transfer of the values associated with functional categories) of Eubank (1993/94). We provide an example of (extremely robust) L2 acquisition data that highlight the inadequacy of the Minimal Trees hypothesis in regard to stages of Interlanguage subsequent to the L2 initial state. As for Weak Transfer, we show that the morphosyntactic empirical foundations which drive the entire approach are flawed; hence the Weak Transfer hypothesis remains without motivation. Finally, we consider several conceptual issues relating to transfer. These all argue that the FT/FA model provides the most coherent picture of the L2 initial cognitive state. In short, FT/FA embodies the most suitable programme for understanding comparative Interlanguage development.
Article
This paper investigates the shared or independent nature of grammatical gender representations in the bilingual mental lexicon and the role word form similarity (as in the case of cognates) plays in these representations. In a translation task from Greek (L1) to German (L2), nouns that had the same gender in both languages were translated faster than nouns with different genders, but only when the L2 target utterance required computation of gender agreement (adjective + noun). This tendency held for both cognates and noncognates. Unlike noncognates, however, gender-incongruent cognates yielded more errors than gender-congruent cognates. These results are interpreted as evidence for a shared L1–L2 gender system with L2 cognates relying more heavily on the L1 gender value than noncognates.
Article
The present study investigated whether German speakers compute grammatical gender on the basis of gender-marking regularities. To this purpose two experiments were run. In Experiment 1, participants had to assign the definite article to German nouns in an online task; in the second experiment, participants were confronted with German nouns as well as nonwords in an untimed gender assignment task. In the online experiment, which required the repetition of a visually presented noun with its corresponding definite article as fast as possible, reaction times show that the assignment of the definite determiner to a noun is not facilitated by gender-marking regularities. In an offline gender assignment task, however, participants profited from gender cues during gender assignment to nonwords.
Article
This study was designed to test the Fundamental Difference Hypothesis (Bley-Vroman, 1988), which states that, whereas children are known to learn language almost completely through (implicit) domain-specific mechanisms, adults have largely lost the ability to learn a language without reflecting on its structure and have to use alternative mechanisms, drawing especially on their problem-solving capacities, to learn a second language. The hypothesis implies that only adults with a high level of verbal analytical ability will reach near-native competence in their second language, but that this ability will not be a significant predictor of success for childhood second language acquisition. A study with 57 adult Hungarian-speaking immigrants confirmed the hypothesis in the sense that very few adult immigrants scored within the range of child arrivals on a grammaticality judgment test, and that the few who did had high levels of verbal analytical ability; this ability was not a significant predictor for childhood arrivals. This study replicates the findings of Johnson and Newport (1989) and provides an explanation for the apparent exceptions in their study. These findings lead to a reconceptualization of the Critical Period Hypothesis: If the scope of this hypothesis is limited to implicit learning mechanisms, then it appears that there may be no exceptions to the age effects that the hypothesis seeks to explain.
Code
This corpus contains ASCII versions of the CELEX lexical databases of English (Version 2.5), Dutch (Version 3.1) and German (Version 2.0). CELEX was developed as a joint enterprise of the University of Nijmegen, the Institute for Dutch Lexicology in Leiden, the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen, and the Institute for Perception Research in Eindhoven. Pre-mastering and production was done by the LDC.
Article
The ability to process the linguistic input in real time is crucial for successfully acquiring a language, and yet little is known about how language learners comprehend or produce language in real time. Against this background, we have conducted a detailed study of grammatical processing in language learners using experimental psycholinguistic techniques and comparing different populations (mature native speakers, child first language [L1] and adult second language [L2] learners) as well as different domains of language (morphology and syntax). This article presents an overview of the results from this project and of other previous studies, with the aim of explaining how grammatical processing in language learners differs from that of mature native speakers. For child L1 processing, we will argue for a continuity hypothesis claiming that the child’s parsing mechanism is basically the same as that of mature speakers and does not change over time. Instead, empirical differences between child and mature speaker’s processing can be explained by other factors such as the child’s limited working memory capacity and by less efficient lexical retrieval. In nonnative (adult L2) language processing, some striking differences to native speakers were observed in the domain of sentence processing. Adult learners are guided by lexical–semantic cues during parsing in the same way as native speakers, but less so by syntactic information. We suggest that the observed L1/L2 differences can be explained by assuming that the syntactic representations adult L2 learners compute during comprehension are shallower and less detailed than those of native speakers. Assigning
Article
This article reports the results of an eye-tracking experiment that investigated the effects of structural distance on readers' sensitivity to violations of Spanish gender agreement during online sentence comprehension. The study tracked the eye movements of native Spanish speakers and English-speaking learners of Spanish as they read sentences that contained nouns modified by postnominal adjectives located in three syntactic domains: (a) in the DP, (b) in the VP, or (c) in a subordinate clause. In half of the sentences in each condition, adjectives agreed with the noun in gender, and in half, they did not. The results indicate that gender agreement is acquirable in adulthood, contra the failed functional features hypothesis, and that the distance that separates nouns and adjectives affects the detection of gender anomalies in the second language. The findings support Clahsen and Felser's (2006a) shallow structure hypothesis, as it pertains to morphological processing.
Article
The central claim of the cognitive science paradigm is that the mind/brain can be thought of as an information-processing device. Classical theories require explicitness about the representations in which knowledge is encoded because processes are denned as algorithms computing over them. In much current second-language acquisition (SLA) research, there is talk of “process” and “processing” without talk of representation or, conversely, proposals about representation with no clarity about how structures are exploited during parsing or production. To accept this state of affairs is not to take the paradigm seriously. I offer an analysis of gender attribution in French L1 and French L2 acquisition to show how one can develop explicit models of acquisition, blending together the findings of linguistics and experimental psycholinguistics.
Article
Previous accounts of morphological variability disagree over whether its cause is representational or computational in nature. Under a computational account, variability is confined to produc-tion; under a representational account, variability extends to compre-hension and is qualitatively similar to variability in production. This article presents experimental evidence from the comprehension and production of gender and number agreement in second language (L2) Spanish clitics and adjectives. Intermediate-level participants show variability across comprehension and production; across tasks, masculine defaults are adopted. Advanced-level participants show less variability, although evidence for masculine defaults emerges across tasks. Number agreement proved relatively unproblematic, except in the production of adjective agreement where singular defaults are systematically adopted by intermediate-and advanced-level speakers. The qualitative similarity of variability across com-prehension and production supports a representational account; however, previous research disfavours an account based in syntactic deficits. This article argues for a theory of morphological variability that places the representational cause in the morphology, rather than the syntax.
Article
Abstract We used event-related brain potentials (ERPs) to investigate the contributions of explicit and implicit processes during second language (L2) sentence comprehension. We tested 20 native English speakers enrolled in the first four semesters of Spanish classes, using an L2 grammaticality judgment task (GJT), while recording both accuracy and ERP data. We reasoned that any difference in the ERP between grammatical and ungrammatical sentences would reflect on-line, implicit processing, and that overt grammaticality judgments would reflect primarily explicit processing. We reasoned that because end-of- sentence grammaticality judgments are open to conscious inspection, they can be influenced by strategic processes that reflect on formal rules. On the other hand, because ERPs are a direct reflection of on-line processing, they reflect automatic, non-reflective, implicit responses to stimuli (Rugg et al, 1998; Schnyer et al., 1999; Tachibana et al., 1999). We used a version of the GJT that has been adapted for the ERP environment. The sentences were presented one word at a time; each word was presented for 300 ms with a blank between words of 350 ms. Grammaticality judgments were given after a brief delay following the last word of each sentence. Half of the sentences were grammatically,acceptable. The critical sentences varied the form of three different syntactic constructions. First, we included sentences that were either acceptable or not in their tense-marking; this construction is formed similarlyin L1 and L2. We also included sentences that were either acceptable or not in their determiner number,agreement; this construction is formed differentlyin L1 and L2. Finally, we included sentences that were acceptable or not in their determiner gender agreement; this construction is uniqueto L2. Our analysis of the ERP
Article
This study investigates knowledge of gender agreement in Spanish L2 learners and heritage speakers, who differ in age and context/mode of acquisition. On some current theoretical accounts, persistent difficulty with grammatical gender in adult L2 acquisition is due to age. These accounts predict that heritage speakers should be more accurate on gender agreement than L2 learners, because their Spanish language acquisition started in infancy. Sixty-nine heritage speakers, 72 second language (L2) learners, and 22 native Spanish speakers were tested on their oral production, written comprehension, and written recognition of Spanish gender agreement. Results showed advantages for L2 learners in written tasks but advantages for heritage speakers in the oral task. We discuss the significance of these findings for SLA and heritage language acquisition.
Article
This article investigates experimentally if beginner adult learners, given auditory stimuli, are equally likely to represent French gender subclasses in terms of phonological, morphosyntactic, and/or semantic representations. Eighty-eight adult English speakers learned patterned [Det + N]French+ translation equivalentEnglish lists. Analyses of results reveal that participants more readily cognized “natural” semantic and morphological patterns; these same lists lent themselves to generalization. The results demonstrate that for this group of learners, the construct of input for gender learning emerges through the construction of abstract knowledge representations, apparently on the basis of prior knowledge, and not solely from objective patterns in the speech signal. They provide support for theories of linguistic cognition involving mediating structural representations, as well as learning theories in which conceptual information can guide grammatical development.