The processing of subject pronouns in highly proficient L2 speakers of English

Carla Contemori, Paola E. Dussias

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Studies on second language (L2) anaphora resolution have mainly focused on learners of null-subject languages, demonstrating that L2 speakers show residual indeterminacy in the L2 referential choice, even at the highest levels of proficiency. On the other hand, studies on anaphora resolution in L2 learners of non-null-subject languages have shown conflicting results, indicating that L2 speakers may process referential expressions in the L2 like native speakers. Using a visual word paradigm task, we test the online processing of pronouns in highly proficient L2 speakers of English whose L1 is Spanish, and compare their performance to a group of native English speakers. The native speakers' data show rapid use of the first mention bias (i.e., interpreting a pronoun towards the first-mentioned referent) and gender information upon encountering a gender ambiguous or unambiguous pronoun. For the L2 participants, we find similar underlying processes of pronoun resolution in comparison to native speakers. The results do not reveal a processing cost for L2 speakers of a non-null-subject language during anaphora resolution. Overall, our study demonstrates that L2 speakers of a non-null-subject language (English) can achieve native-like processing of the default referential form signaling topic continuity (i.e., the overt pronoun; Sorace 2011).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number38
JournalGlossa
Volume5
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Linguistics and Language
  • Language and Linguistics

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