Pliatsikas, C., & Marinis, T. (2013): Processing long-distance dependencies in a second language. When naturalistic exposure fills the (intermediate) gap. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 16(1),167-182
An ongoing debate on second language (L2) processing revolves around whether or not L2 learners process syntactic information similarly to monolinguals (L1), and what factors lead to a native-like processing. According to the Shallow Structure Hypothesis (Clahsen & Felser, 2006a), L2 learners’ processing does not include abstract syntactic features, such as intermediate gaps of wh-movement, but relies more on lexical/semantic information. Other researchers have suggested that naturalistic L2 exposure can lead to native-like processing (Dussias, 2003). This study investigates the effect of naturalistic exposure in processing wh-dependencies. Twenty-six advanced Greek learners of L2 English with an average nine years of naturalistic exposure, 30 with classroom exposure, and 30 native speakers of English completed a self-paced reading task with sentences involving intermediate gaps. L2 learners with naturalistic exposure showed evidence of native-like processing of the intermediate gaps, suggesting that linguistic immersion can lead to native-like abstract syntactic processing in the L2.
Pliatsikas, C., & Marinis, T. (2013): Processing of regular and irregular past tense morphology in highly proficient L2 learners of English: a self-paced reading study. Applied Psycholinguistics, 34(5), 943-970
Dual-system models suggest that English past tense morphology involves two processing routes: rule application for regular verbs and memory retrieval for irregular verbs (Pinker, 1999). In second language (L2) processing research, Ullman (2001a) suggested that both verb types are retrieved from memory, but more recently Clahsen and Felser (2006) and Ullman (2004) argued that past tense rule application can be automatised with experience by L2 learners. To address this controversy, we tested highly proficient Greek-English learners with naturalistic or classroom L2 exposure compared to native English speakers in a self-paced reading task involving past tense forms embedded in plausible sentences. Our results suggest that, irrespective to the type of exposure, proficient L2 learners of extended L2 exposure apply rule-based processing.
Pliatsikas, C., & Marinis, T. (2013): Rule-based morphological processing in a second language: a behavioural investigation. Language Studies Working Papers, 5, 3-12
According to dual-system accounts of English past-tense processing, regular forms are decomposed into their stem and affix (played=play+ed) based on an implicit linguistic rule, whereas irregular forms (kept) are retrieved directly from the mental lexicon. In second language (L2) processing research, it has been suggested that L2 learners do not have rule-based decomposing abilities, so they process regular past-tense forms similarly to irregular ones (Silva & Clahsen 2008), without applying the morphological rule. The present study investigates morphological processing of regular and irregular verbs in Greek-English L2 learners and native English speakers. In a masked-priming experiment with regular and irregular prime-target verb pairs (playedplay/kept-keep), native speakers showed priming effects for regular pairs, compared to unrelated pairs, indicating decomposition; conversely, L2 learners showed inhibitory effects. At the same time, both groups revealed priming effects for irregular pairs. We discuss these findings in the light of available theories on L2 morphological processing.