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Processing reflexives in a second language: The timing of structural and discourse-level constraints

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 August 2011

CLAUDIA FELSER*
Affiliation:
University of Essex
IAN CUNNINGS
Affiliation:
University of Essex
*
ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE Claudia Felser, Department of Language and Linguistics, University of Essex, Colchester CO4 3SQ, United Kingdom. E-mail: felsec@essex.ac.uk

Abstract

We report the results from two eye-movement monitoring experiments examining the processing of reflexive pronouns by proficient German-speaking learners of second language (L2) English. Our results show that the nonnative speakers initially tried to link English argument reflexives to a discourse-prominent but structurally inaccessible antecedent, thereby violating binding condition A. Our native speaker controls, in contrast, showed evidence of applying condition A immediately during processing. Together, our findings show that L2 learners’ initial focusing on a structurally inaccessible antecedent cannot be due to first language influence and is also independent of whether the inaccessible antecedent c-commands the reflexive. This suggests that unlike native speakers, nonnative speakers of English initially attempt to interpret reflexives through discourse-based coreference assignment rather than syntactic binding.

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Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2011

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Processing reflexives in a second language: The timing of structural and discourse-level constraints
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