Hostname: page-component-5d59c44645-ndqjc Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-02-22T16:17:58.591Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Proficiency and working memory based explanations for nonnative speakers’ sensitivity to agreement in sentence processing

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 March 2012

CAITLIN E. COUGHLIN
Affiliation:
University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign
ANNIE TREMBLAY*
Affiliation:
University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign
*
ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE Annie Tremblay, University of Illinois at Urbana–Campaign, 2090 Foreign Language Building, 707 S. Mathews Avenue, Urbana, IL 61801. E-mail: atrembla@illinois.edu

Abstract

This study examines the roles of proficiency and working memory (WM) capacity in second-/foreign-language (L2) learners’ processing of agreement morphology. It investigates the processing of grammatical and ungrammatical short- and long-distance number agreement dependencies by native English speakers at two proficiencies in French, and the relationship between their proficiency and WM capacity in French and their sensitivity to agreement violations. Native English speakers at mid- and high proficiencies in French and native French speakers completed an acceptability judgment task, a self-paced reading task, and a WM task in French, and the English speakers also completed a WM task in English. The results showed that whereas all participants performed at ceiling on the acceptability judgment tasks, only the high-level L2 learners and native speakers showed some sensitivity to number agreement violations. For L2 learners, this sensitivity did not vary as a function of the length of the agreement dependency. The results also indicated that L2 learners tended to be more sensitive to agreement violations as their WM memory capacity in French increased. The implications of these results for theories of L2 morphological processing are discussed.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

References

REFERENCES

Alptetin, C., & Erçetin, G. (2010). The role of L1 and L2 working memory in literal and inferential comprehension in L2 reading. Journal of Research in Reading, 33, 206219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ardila, A. (2003). Language representation and working memory with bilinguals. Journal of Communication Disorders, 36, 233240.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Bachman, L. F. (1985). Performance on cloze tests with fixed-ratio and rational deletions. TESOL Quarterly, 16, 6170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Baddeley, A. D. (2000). The Phonological loop and the irrelevant speech effect: Some xomments on neath. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 7, 544549.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Baddeley, A. D. (2007). Working memory, thought and action. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Baddeley, A. D., & Hitch, G. (1974). Working memory. In Bower, G. (Ed.), The psychology of learning and motivation (Vol. 8, pp. 4790). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
Baddeley, A. D., & Wilson, B. A. (1985). Phonological coding and short-term memory in patients without speech. Journal of Memory and Language, 24, 490502.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Birdsong, D., & Flege, J. E. (2001). Regular-irregular dissociations in L2 acquisition of English morphology. In Do, A. H.-J., Domínguez, L., & Johansen, A. (Eds.), Proceedings of the 25th Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development (pp. 123132). Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press.Google Scholar
Birdsong, D., & Molis, M. (2001). On the evidence for maturational constraints in second-language acquisition. Journal of Memory and language, 44, 235249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bowden, H., Gelfand, M., Sanz, C., & Ullman, M. (2010). Verbal inflectional morphology in L1 and L2 Spanish: A frequency effects study examining storage versus composition. Language Learning, 60, 4487.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Caplan, D., & Waters, G. S. (1995). Aphasic disturbances of syntactic comprehension and working memory capacity. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 12, 637649.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Caplan, D., & Waters, G. S. (1996). The measurement of verbal working memory capacity and its relation to reading comprehension. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Experimental Psychology, 49A, 5179.Google Scholar
Clahsen, H., & Felser, C. (2006a). Grammatical processing in language learners. Applied Psycholinguistics, 27, 342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Clahsen, H., & Felser, C. (2006b). Continuity and shallow structures in language processing. Applied Psycholinguistics, 27, 107126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Clahsen, H., Felser, C., Neubauer, K., Sato, M., & Silva, R. (2010). Morphological structure in native and nonnative language processing. Language Learning, 60, 2143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Coughlin, C. E., & Tremblay, A. (2011). Native and non-native processing of short and long agreement dependencies in French. In Armstrong, L. (Ed.), Proceedings of the 2011 Annual Conference of the Canadian Linguistic Association. Retrieved from http://homes.chass.utoronto.ca/~cla-acl/actes2011/Coughlin_and_Tremblay_2011.pdfGoogle Scholar
Daneman, M., & Carpenter, P. (1980). Individual differences in working memory and reading. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 19, 450466.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Felser, C., & Roberts, L. (2007). Processing wh-dependencies in a second language: A cross modal priming study. Second Language Research, 23, 936.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Felser, C., Roberts, L., Marinis, T., & Gross, R. (2003). The processing of ambiguous sentences by first and second language learners of English. Applied Psycholinguistics, 24, 453489.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Foote, R. (2011). Integrated knowledge of agreement in early and late English–Spanish bilinguals. Applied Psycholinguistics. 32, 187220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fotos, S. S. (1991). The cloze test as an integrative measure of EFL proficiency: A substitute for essays on college entrance examinations? Language Learning, 41, 313336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Foucart, A., & Frenck-Mestre, C. (2011). Grammatical gender processing in L2: Electrophysiological evidence of the effect of L1–L2 syntactic similarity. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 14, 379399.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Frenck-Mestre, C. (2002). An on-line look at sentence processing in the second language. In Heredia, R. R. & Altarriba, J. (Eds.), Bilingual sentence processing (pp. 217236). Amsterdam: Elsevier.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gathercole, S., & Baddeley, A. D. (1993). Phonological working memory: A critical building block for reading development and vocabulary acquisition? European Journal of Psychology of Education, 8, 259272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hahne, A., Mueller, J., & Clahsen, H. (2006). Morphological processing in a second language: Behavioral and event-related brain potential evidence for storage and decomposition. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 18, 121134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Harrington, M., & Sawyer, M. (1992). L2 working memory capacity and L2 reading skill. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 14, 2538.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Havik, E., Roberts, L., Van Hout, R., Schreuder, R., & Haverkort, M. (2009). Processing subject-object ambiguities in the L2: A self-paced reading study with German L2 learners of Dutch. Language Learning, 59, 73112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hopp, H. (2006). Syntactic features and reanalysis in near-native processing. Second Language Research, 22, 369397.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hopp, H. (2010). Ultimate attainment in L2 inflection: Performance similarities between non-native and native speakers. Lingua, 120, 901931.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jiang, N. (2004). Morphological insensitivity in second language processing. Applied Psycholinguistics, 25, 603634.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jiang, N. (2007). Selective integration of linguistics knowledge in adult second language learning. Language Learning, 57, 133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Johnson, J., & Newport, E. (1989). Critical period effects in second language learning: The influence of maturational state on the acquisition of English as a second language. Cognitive Psychology, 21, 6099.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Juffs, A. (2004). Representation, processing and working memory in a second language. Transactions of the Philological Society, 102, 199225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Juffs, A. (2005). The influence of first language on the processing of wh-movement in English as a second language. Second Language Research, 21, 121151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Just, M. A., & Carpenter, P. A. (1992). A capacity theory of comprehension: Individual differences in working memory. Psychological Review, 99, 122149.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Keating, G. (2009). Sensitivity to violations of gender agreement in native and nonnative Spanish: An eye-movement investigation. Language Learning, 59, 503535.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
King, J., & Just, M. A. (1991). Individual differences in syntactic processing: The rate of working memory. Journal of Memory and Language, 30, 580602.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lardiere, D. (2006). Ultimate attainment in second language acquisition: A case study. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
MacDonald, J. L. (2000). Grammaticality judgments in a second language: Influences of age of acquisition and native language. Applied Psycholinguistics, 21, 395423.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
MacDonald, M., Just, M., & Carpenter, P. (1992). Working memory constraints on the processing of syntactic ambiguity. Cognitive Psychology, 24, 5698.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Marinis, T., Roberts, L., Felser, C., & Clahsen, H. (2005). Gaps in second language sentence processing. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 27, 5378.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mayo, L., Florentine, M., & Buus, S. (1997). Age of second-language acquisition and perception of speech in noise. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 40, 686693.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
McDonald, J. L. (2006). Beyond the critical period: Processing-based explanations for poor grammaticality judgment performance by late second language learners. Journal of Memory and Language, 55, 381401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Meador, D., Flege, J., & MacKay, I. (2000). Factors affecting the recognition of words in a second language. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 3, 5567.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Miyake, A., Carpenter, P. A., & Just, M. A. (1994). A capacity approach of syntactic comprehension disorders: Making normal adults perform like aphasic patients. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 11, 671717.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Miyake, A., & Friedman, N. (1998). Individual differences in second language proficiency: Working memory as language aptitude. In Healy, A. F. & Bourne, L. E. (Eds.), Foreign language learning: Psycholinguistic studies on training and retention (pp. 339364). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
Montgomery, J. (2000). Relation of working memory to offline and real time sentence processing in children with specific language impairment. Applied Psycholinguistics, 21, 117148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Neubauer, K., & Clahsen, H. (2009). Decomposition of inflected words in a second language. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 31, 403435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ojima, S., Nakata, H., & Kakigi, R. (2005). An ERP study of second language learning after childhood: Effects of proficiency. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 17, 12121228.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Osaka, M., & Osaka, N. (1992). Language-independent working memory as measured by Japanese and English reading span tests. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, 30, 287289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Osterhout, L., McLaughlin, J., Pitkanen, I., Frenck-Mestre, C., & Molinaro, N. (2006). Novice learners, longitudinal designs, and event-related potentials: A means for exploring the neurocognition of second language processing. Language Learning, 56, 199230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Osterhout, L., Poliakov, A., Inoue, K., McLaughlin, J., Valentine, G., Pitkanen, I., et al. (2008). Second-language learning and changes in the brain. Journal of Neurolinguistics, 21, 509521.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Papadopoulou, D., & Clahsen, H. (2003). Parsing strategies in L1 and L2 sentence processing: A study of relative clause attachment in Greek. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 25, 501528.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Paradis, M. (2004). A neurolinguistic theory of bilingualism. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Paradis, M. (2009). Declarative and procedural determinants of second languages. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pinker, S. (1999). Words and rules: The ingredients of language. New York: Basic.Google Scholar
Pinker, S., & Ullman, M. T. (2002). The past and future of the past tense. Trends in Cognitive Science, 6, 456463.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Roberts, R., & Gibson, E. (2002). Individual differences in sentence memory. Journal of Psycholinguistics Research, 31, 573598.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Rossi, S., Gugler, M. F., Friederici, A. D., & Hahne, A. (2006). The impact of proficiency on syntactic second-language processing of German and Italian: Evidence from event-related potentials. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 18, 20302048.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Sagarra, N. (2007). Online processing of gender agreement in low proficient English–Spanish late bilinguals. In Cabrera, M. J., Camacho, J., Déprez, V., Flores, N., & Sánchez, L. (Eds.), Romance linguistics 2006: Selected papers from the 36th Linguistic Symposium on Romance Languages (pp. 240253). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
Sagarra, N., & Herschensohn, J. (2010). The role of proficiency and working memory in gender and number agreement processing in L1 and L2 Spanish. Lingua, 120, 20222039.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Salthouse, T. A. (1990). Working memory as a processing resource in cognitive aging. Developmental Review, 10, 101124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sato, M., & Felser, C. (2010). Sensitivity to morphosyntactic violations in English as a second language. Second Language, 9, 101118.Google Scholar
Segalowitz, N., & Hulstijn, J. (2005). Automaticity in bilingualism and second language learning. In Kroll, J. F. & De Groot, A. M. B. (Eds.), Handbook of bilingualism: Psycholinguistic approaches (pp. 371388). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Service, E., Simola, M., Mesanheimo, O., & Maury, S. (2002). Bilingual working memory span is affected by language skill. European Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 14, 383408.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Silva, R., & Clahsen, H. (2008). Morphologically complex words in L1 and L2 processing: Evidence from masked priming experiments in English. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 11, 245260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Steinhauer, K., White, E., & Drury, J. (2009). Temporal dynamics of late second language acquisition: Evidence from event-related brain potentials. Second Language Research, 25, 1341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tirre, W. C., & Peña, C. M. (1992). Investigation of functional working memory in the reading span test. Journal of Educational Psychology, 84, 462472.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tokowicz, N., & MacWhinney, B. (2005). Implicit and explicit measures of sensitivity to violations in second language grammar. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 27, 173204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tremblay, A. (2011). Proficiency assessment standards in second language acquisition research: “Clozing” the gap. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 33, 339372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tremblay, A., & Garrison, M. D. (2010). Cloze tests: A tool for proficiency assessment in research on L2 French. In Prior, M. T., Watanabe, Y., & Lee, S.-K. (Eds.), Selected proceedings of the 2nd Language Research Forum 2008 (pp. 7388). Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press.Google Scholar
Turner, M.. & Engle, R. (1989). Is working memory capacity task dependent? Journal of Memory and Language, 28, 127154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ullman, M. T. (2001). The declarative/procedural model of lexicon and grammar. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 30, 3769.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Ullman, M. T. (2004). Contributions of memory circuits to language: The declarative/ procedural model. Cognition, 92, 231270.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Van den Noort, M., Bosch, P., & Hugdahl, K. (2006). Foreign language proficiency and working memory capacity. European Psychologist, 11, 289296.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Van Wijngaarden, S. J., Steeneken, H. J. M., & Houtgast, T. (2002). Quantifying the intelligibility of speech in noise for non-native listeners. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 111, 19061916.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Walter, C. (2004). Transfer of reading comprehension skills to L2 is linked to mental representations of text and to L2 working memory. Applied Linguistics, 25, 315339.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Waters, G., & Caplan, D. (1996a).The measurement of verbal working memory capacity and its relation to reading comprehension. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 49A, 5179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Waters, G., & Caplan, D. (1996b). Processing resource capacity and the comprehension of garden path sentences. Memory and Cognition, 24, 342355.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
White, L., Valenzuela, E., Kozlowska-MacGregor, M., & Leung, I. Y.-K. (2004). Gender and number agreement in nonnative Spanish. Applied Psycholinguistics, 25, 105133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Williams, J. N. (2011). Working memory. In Gass, S. & Mackey, A. (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of second language acquisition (pp. 427441). London: Routledge.Google Scholar