Effects of reading span and plausibility in the reanalysis of wh-gaps by Chinese-English second language speakers

Paola E. Dussias, Pilar Piñar

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This study utilizes a moving window technique to investigate how individual cognitive resources (operationalized in terms of reading span scores) might modulate the extent to which native English speakers and Chinese second language (L2) learners of English utilize plausibility information to recover from an initial misparse in the processing of long-distance wh-questions. Consistent with findings in the previous literature, both groups postulated a filler-gap dependency at the earliest possible position. This was evidenced by subject-object extraction parsing asymmetries that were indicative of an initially incorrect filler-gap analysis. Additionally, it was found that plausibility did not prevent initial misparses, but affected how fast participants recovered from misanalysis, with implausible analyses facilitating recovery. However, only the English L2 participants in the higher span group resembled English native readers in their ability to exploit plausibility information in this way. We conclude that the individual cognitive resources of the learner are an important factor in determining the extent to which sentence processing might be qualitatively similar or different in a first language (L1) and a second language.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)443-472
Number of pages30
JournalSecond Language Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 30 2010


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language

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