Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Second language sentence processing: Is it fundamentally different?
by Rodriguez, Guillermo A., Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, 2008, 185; 3349269
Abstract (Summary)

In this dissertation, the main assumptions in the Shallow Structure Hypothesis, developed by Clahsen & Felser (2006), are evaluated to determine whether the performance of second language (L2) learners when parsing sentences in the target language is fundamentally different. First, the claim that L2 learners do not employ phrase structure heuristics is assessed with stimuli made up of transitively- and intransitively-biased verbs followed by a noun phrase (Traxler, 2005). The second claim evaluated is that L2 learners do not use structurally defined gaps. This hypothesis is tested by comparing the learners’ reading performance of intermediate gaps, stimuli with garden path effects and genitive nominalizations. The third assumption tested involves the use of configurational (binding) principles (Chomsky, 1981) in the parsing of cataphoric reference. The performance of L2 learners of English from Spanish and Chinese backgrounds is compared to that of native English speakers using the moving window paradigm. The relative influence of WM on the processing of these structures was also measured. Results show that both native and non-native speakers present similar parsing profiles and do make use of parsing heuristics. At the same time, both native speakers and L2 learners present difficulties accessing other kinds of structural information and resort instead to other clues that may render ‘good-enough’ representations (Ferreira et al., 2002). A pervasive finding as regards the WM capacity in L2 learners is the relationship found between the ability to store words and grammatical proficiency in a version of the reading span task (Daneman & Carpenter, 1980).

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Juffs, Alan
School: University of Pittsburgh
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 70/03, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Language arts, Linguistics
Keywords: Language processing, Second language, Sentence parsing, Working memory
Publication Number: 3349269
ISBN: 9781109055788